By happy coincidence, Mexico in 2016 yielded two expert and moving documentaries on women, sex, and aging: María José Cuevas's Bellas de noche (Beauties of the Night) and Maya Goded's Plaza de la Soledad (Solitude Square). Both are first-time features by female directors. And both are attempts to reclaim previously neglected subjects: showgirls of the 1970s and sex workers in their seventies, respectively. Moreover, lengthy production processes in which the filmmakers cohabitated with their subjects have resulted in films that are clearly love letters to their protagonists. Widely shown at festivals and beyond, Bellas de noche won best documentary at Morelia, Mexico's key festival for the genre, and was picked up by Netflix in the United States and other territories. Plaza de la Soledad, meanwhile, earned plaudits at Sundance and a theatrical release in its home country in May 2017, a rare opportunity for a documentary. Complex and contradictory, these twin films celebrate women whose lives may be limited by circumstances cruelly beyond their control but who are vital, still, in their quest for friendship and freedom.
Screenings: Of Stars and Solitude: Two Mexican Documentaries
Paul Julian Smith, a Fellow of the British Academy, is Distinguished Professor in the Hispanic and Luso-Brazilian Program at the Graduate Center of the City University of New York (CUNY). He is the author of nineteen books including Desire Unlimited: The Cinema of Pedro Almodóvar (Verso, 1994), Dramatized Societies: Quality Television in Spain and Mexico (Liverpool University Press, 2016), and Queer Mexico: Cinema and Television since 2000 (Wayne State University Press 2017). He has served on the juries of the San Sebastián International Film Festival in Spain and the Morelia International Film Festival in Mexico. Follow him on twitter @pauljuliansmith
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Paul Julian Smith; Screenings: Of Stars and Solitude: Two Mexican Documentaries. Film Quarterly 1 September 2017; 71 (1): 73–79. doi: https://doi.org/10.1525/fq.2017.71.1.73
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