Review: Miriam Lies
by Alfonso Rivera
- KARLOVY VARY 2018: This Spanish-Dominican Republic co-production combines the talent of Natalia Cabral and Oriol Estrada, two promising directors born on either side of the Atlantic
After Spain’s success last year at Karlovy Vary thanks to the documentary Lots of Kids, a Monkey and a Castle [+see also:
interview: Gustavo Salmerón
film profile], it’s a testament to Spanish cinema that a festival of this importance has once again selected a national production (in co-production with the Dominican Republic) to compete in its international competition. The film is Miriam Lies [+see also:
interview: Oriol Estrada, Dulce Rodríg…
film profile], written, directed, edited and produced by Natalia Cabral (Saint-Domingue, 1981) and Catalonian director Oriol Estrada (Capellades, 1983), the duo behind documentaries such as Tú y yo (2014)and El sitio de los sitios (2016), which have been screened at festivals such as Amsterdam (IFDA), Malaga, Visions du Réel, Cartagena, Biarritz and La Havane and are set, just like Miriam Lies, in the Caribbean.
In 1997, American director Elizabeth Schub documented the birthday parties of 15-year-old girls in Cuba and the meaning behind said celebration in her short film Cuba 15. In Miriam Lies, Cabral and Estrada also focus on this greatly (if not disproportionately so) important social and family event, but this time we’re in the Dominican Republic. In their film, a well-to-do mother joyfully, and almost obsessively, prepares for the day her daughter will reach this key age and leave childhood behind, wearing the clothes, makeup and hairstyle of a young adult, in a shower of sequins and rhinestones.
Meanwhile, her daughter, Miriam, a young girl of mixed heritage, has met a boy on the internet and announces that he will be escorting her to her birthday party. Everyone is happy as the boy seems perfectly respectful, but when Miriam sees him and realises that he is black, she doesn’t dare talk to him and runs away. The secret of the colour of the boy’s skin will generate a vicious web of inextricable lies for the young heroine.
The directorial duo simultaneously builds a captivating portrait of a certain culture, an intimate chronicle of adolescence and a fierce criticism of class society, all in a documentary style, enhanced by a cast (young and adult, professional and amateur) that delivers some incredibly natural performances. With such a fantastic calling card, we can only hope Cabral and Estrada’s film – after its premiere at the big Czech festival – has a career as long and applauded as Salmerón’s first feature film, which was screened at the same festival last year.
Miriam Lies – one of the projects selected by the Tribeca Film Institute as part of its TFI Latin America Fund 2018 programme – was produced by Faula Films, the co-directors’ company (both trained in San Antonio de los Baños, Cuba) and Mallerich Films, with the support of the Ibermedia programme. International sales are being handled by the Madrid agency Latido Films.
(Translated from Spanish)
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