Sundance: “MAMACRUZ”

World cinema dramatic competition

Patricia Ortega’s latest film “MAMACRUZ” is a frank and honest film that speaks to the embracing of one’s sexuality, especially late in life.

Spanish actress Kiti Mánver is excellent as Mamacruz, a seamstress, wife, mother, and grandmother, who accidentally clicks on a porn link. Stunned at first, the clip plants the seed of a sexual reawakening within.

Instead of denouncing it as sinful (as her Catholic religion berates its followers into believing) Mamacruz
embraces it, as her mind and fingers begin an exploration of feelings long dormant.

Soon she finds herself a member of a small sex therapy group created for women her age who seek to reclaim power of their carnal desires, making discoveries and like-minded friends, to the dismay of her inattentive husband.

Ortega colors her film with a potent symbolism that some may find sacrilegious, but the filmmaker is making a point.

Ortega is pushing back on the hypocrisy of religious oppression that makes so many deny their natural feelings. In a religion that is complicit to the largest number sex scandals on record, perhaps the Catholic Church shouldn’t be taken so seriously.

Mánver fills her character with sensitivity and resolve and is complimented by Ortega and José Ortuño’s eloquent and touching screenplay that honors female sexuality. It is a strong character and an elegantly authentic performance.

The director’s style has a certain cheekiness in visualizing the story. Fantasies about a more sexual Jesus and cutting from a chocolate covered penis to Mamacruz biting into a chocolate churro are playfully impudent.

Ortega works close with cinematographer Fran Fernández Pardo, creating changing color palettes to properly follow Mamacruz’s awakening.

At first, the tones are neutral. As Ortega’s main character begins her awakening, the colors and angles become more spirited and energetic, until the brilliant final shot.

Ortega ends the picture by holding on a brilliant surrealistic image of sexual enlightenment worthy of Bergman, Almodovar, and Fellini, directors whose works celebrate the intricacies and power of women.

It is a pleasure to see a modern filmmaker so alive with artistic impulses. Ortega has a unique voice and knows how to visualize her ideas.

Ortega doesn’t accept society’s strait-laced finger pointing when it comes to women and their bodies, nor does she accept the “Women of a certain age shouldn’t…” label. Human beings, no matter the age, have needs and this film wants to let women know how important it is not to suppress them.

“MAMACRUZ” is a film (and a character) that revolts against the Catholic way of thinking that shames followers for any carnal feelings, needs, or desires one might have. When young, they say masturbation is a sin. When older, impure thoughts are a sin. When past a certain age any sexual thought or act is a sin. Perhaps those who live in glass houses of sin shouldn’t throw accusatory stones.

Patricia Ortega has designed a strong and affecting film and a candidly sincere portrait of a woman exploring that most human of desires; And does so with wit and grace.

The Sundance Festival takes place February 19-29.