The Grand Rapids Film Festival is invested in seeking out the opinions of filmmakers from all over the world. We value the creative process of crafting cinema and decided to reach out to directors and writers whose films have been chosen as prime candidates for the April screenings. One resourceful filmmaker we sought out to interview was Mary Angélica Molina, the director, writer and producer of VALENTINA. Molina is a Colombian born woman who immigrated to New York with her family at a later age. Growing up in the Caribbean region of Colombia she has never lost touch with her South American roots.
The films that originally hooked her onto the prospect of filmmaking are the ones she describes as all encompassing with a sense of self, ones that put you under a spell or a trance. At the age of 14 or 15, she knew she wanted to create that whimsy for others. In high school Molina got bitten by the film bug and started creating short films with her mother’s video camera. From there she attended Bard college of New York as an undergraduate and enrolled in a film program that emphasized a non-traditional take on film theory and the avant-garde. Later on Molina enrolled at the University of Southern California in a screenwriting program that balanced well with her liberal arts education at Bard. Because of the juxtapositional shift from imaginative perspective to story, it gave way to the duality of narrative and high art that is present in her filmmaking. Her goal is to hit that sweet spot with films that take viewers off the beaten path while keeping them totally invested.
Her major influences include a variety of tastes in art, film and literature. Post-modernism and modern works after the 1940s and 1950s have greatly shaped her own work. The shape and form of Kandinsky and the minimalism of Donald Judd also pique her interest and act as inspirational fuel. The Earth is a Man from 1942 by Chilean painter Roberto Matta is especially strikes a chord as a favorite painting that is beautiful, lush and tragic. Other muses include John Waters, Alejandro Jodorowsky Prullansky, and Manuel Puig’s Kiss of the Spider Woman. She said that the impression of surrealism, nostalgia and identity present in these pieces of art heighten reality in a non-didactic way.
Feminists have also played a role in the moviemaking process for her. Taking philosophy heavy classes at Bard College, the introduction of Julia Kristeva, Luce Irigaray, and Judith Butler’s Gender Troubles helped establish gender as a performative and social construct. How this fits into cinema is that in film language there is reflexivity and semiotics that is apparent when one is a viewer. The person looking at you is also the person preceding you, meaning that see yourself in many of the films that you view. This notion wasn’t intentional when first viewing or crafting films but there was a “eureka” moment for Molina as she discovered this. After reading numerous feminist theorists, Molina said “these ideas start to linger in your consciousness and manifest in yourself.”
Molina stated that although VALENTINA was in development for a while and was a challenge to realize, it finally came to fruition by means of a Kickstarter campaign. She looked back at other projects of hers for further motivation and was struck by a desire to create a weird story on an insanely hot and humid day in New York. She showed her draft to a friend of hers and it put a fire under her to create the film. Additionally, her fans were responsive to her Kickstarter campaign and the project was soon underway.
What’s next for the innovative, sapient filmmaker is finishing up a sketch web series called Dichos and later on a feature film that’s a Caribbean twist on classic American noir inspired by Chandler and Hammett. Dichos is currently in post-production and uses local Latina talent from New York to tell standalone stories relating to Latin American phrases that translates them for American viewers. Her feature film entitled Tropico Nocturno is a throwback to classic film and literary noir that involves a woman on a crash course for revenge after her attempted murder. The twist is not only in its Caribbean flavor but in gender subversion and a refusal to fit inside a box. The film also will deal with the topic of forgiveness rather than straight forward violent narratives of many film noirs.
Finally, the GRFF also asked Mary Molina about the question of responsibility within the grasp of the filmmaker. Do people who craft movies hold a certain liability to the world? Her answer was unique: she stated that she is a story-teller first that brings an agenda with her films secondly. Being Latina, queer and an immigrant is vital to her individuality but the main goal is to entertain with her films. People do have a certain conscientiousness when making art for others but hers is an blend of awareness and entertainment. The two ideas don’t have to be independent of each other but when combined, they create a “yummy, juicy story.” Be sure to check out her other works, La Rosa y el Gato (2006) and Oh Baby, I Love You! (2009).
Purchase tickets to see Valentina on Saturday, April 14 at 4:15pm at the Wealthy Theatre.