Saturday, April 5, 2014

Entre Nos (Rhoades)

Front Row at the Movies

“Entre Nos” joins “4 Nights 4 Justice”
At Tropic Cinema

Interview by Shirrel Rhoades

Paola Mendoza’s one-year-old son is careening in the background while she tries to talk about her upcoming trip to Key West. She’s looking forward to it, she says, temperatures being what the are in New York. Her babysitter is bundling up the boy for a walk in the park. “It’s been so cold,” she tells me.

A trip to warmer climes is overdue.

Next week the Colombian-American filmmaker is coming to the Tropic Cinema (along with her producer and partner Michael Skolnik) to introduce her film “Entre Nos.” Mendoza not only directed it, but she also stars in it, playing a role based on her mother.

How did the film come about? Mendoza had shown her documentary (“Autumn’s Eyes”) at the 2006 SXSW film festival and was casting about for a new project. Then one day in Queens she saw “this woman pushing this big cart of cans.” That stopped her. What did this woman imagine her future would be? How would she survive?

“That’s when I realized her story was my mother’s story,” says Mendoza. “I’d been very curious about it my whole childhood, my whole adolescence, always asking my mother questions.”

Paola Mendoza, a slender thirtysomething woman in turquoise blue glasses, sits back to consider her decision to make a film about her family. “I asked my mother if I could tell her story and she replied, why? She felt it would be uninteresting.”

Not so, the daughter insisted.

“Now that the film has been celebrated all around the world, she’s coming to realize how much she’s accomplished, how inspiring it is to other people. The story is universal.”

Mendoza considers the film “a gift to my mom.”

The film made its world premiere at the Tribeca Film Festival in 2009

Now “Entre Nos” is coming to the Tropic Cinema on Tuesday, the fourth film in “4 Nights 4 Justice,” a series sponsored by the Michael Dively Social Justice and Diversity Endowment. Managed by The Community Foundation of the Florida Keys, the fund was established to promote and strengthen the Key West commitment to equality by raising community awareness.

A champagne reception for Paola Mendoza starts at 6 p.m. She and her producer also will be on hand for a Q&A after the screening.

“Entre Nos” gives us the semi-autobiographical story of a Colombian woman with two children who comes to America to join her husband, only to be abandoned. Can she be resourceful enough to survive on her own with two small kids?

I think we know the answer. But the beauty is in the telling.

“Today immigration is such a divisive issue,” says Mendoza. “Whenever we talk about it, the subject becomes so polarized. Despite the film’s socio-political theme, I want to put a human face on immigration, show you why people want to come to the US, celebrate those reasons.”

Now Mendoza and her writing partner Gloria LaMorte are working on their next project, days filled with writing sessions, phone calls, and endless conferences. However, the Mendoza family is taking a break to visit Key West, away from the chilly northern weather.

She’s been to Key West before. “I shot a film in Key Largo about two years ago,” she says. “So I had a chance to come down to Key West. I liked it.” That and the warm weather.

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