Forty years after escaping the sexual abuse of the local landowner and the disdain of her community, Paulina Cruz Suarez, a middle-aged Mexican maid, returns to her impoverished village, along with director Vicky Funari, to “make a film of her life.” The result is an exploration of identity that combines documentary footage with impressionistic reenactments of Paulina’s childhood trauma. Her past is almost too horrible to be true and made more difficult to watch by Funari’s heavy-
handed treatment: in one segment, snapshots of Paulina are accompanied by a voice-over asking, “How do I define myself?” The film has moments of psychological complexity— Funari astutely presents the desires for revenge and reconciliation that complicate Paulina’s relationships with her parents and her lovers. Perhaps the film’s most powerful message is that the sexual inequalities of Paulina’s youth persist. As an interview with Paulina’s daughter’s machismo-ridden boyfriend suggests, the wounds of an earlier generation have not yet healed.
This article from the Village Voice Archive was posted on March 30, 1999