Tribeca Film Festival Spotlight: "Entre Nos"

You may remember Paola Mendoza as Magda in Sangre de Mi Sangre, a harrowing immigrant drama released last year. This year, the talented Bogota-born, New York-based actress is back in a very different role for Entre Nos, which makes its world premiere on Saturday, April 25, as part of the Tribeca Film Festival in New York City. Mendoza plays Mariana, a loving mother who brings her two young children (played by newcomers Sebastian Villa and Laura Montana) from her native Colombia to New York to indulge her husband’s whim. But when he abruptly decides to move to Miami for a mysterious “job” and essentially falls off the map, she’s forced to find creative ways to make money (collecting cans, selling empanadas) and provide food and shelter for her family during their first summer in the U.S.

Entre Nos, which Mendoza also co-wrote and co-directed with her friend Gloria La Morte, is actually inspired by her own mother’s experience. The busy filmmaker took time out of her week in between parties and press events to speak to Latina.com about the film, which is currently looking for a distributor. Somehow, we don’t think it will be long before it finds a home.

How did you go about bringing your mother’s story to life?
It’s a story that I’ve been hearing my entire life in bits and pieces and then one day I sat down with my mom [Liliana Legge] and asked some really difficult questions and tried to get a sense of her perspective. Then I went to Gloria (who can make some mean empanadas herself, by the way) and we started on it. It took us three years to make it.

Did you give the script to your mom for approval?
After I interviewed my mom and asked her if I could make this movie, I didn’t mention it to her for another year and a half. Then I gave the script to her and my brother for Christmas in 2007. They were shocked and it was very emotional. Ten months later, she was on set, calling the first “Action!” That was my way of saying thank you for everything she did for us growing up.

One of the most touching moments of the movie is when Mariana has nowhere to go and is forced to sleep in the park with her kids. Did that actually happen to you?
I actually don’t remember much [about our struggles early on]. I was 2 years old when I came to the States and my brother was 6. Something that we dealt with subtly in the film is this idea of the mother making it fun for her children. So, when we slept in the park, when we really slept there, my mother had played with us all day. She allowed it to be a fun memory. My brother [Rick] remembers it as that. My mom was actually on set when we shot that scene and I had the opportunity to ask her, “Can you remember, 20-something years ago, what you felt at that moment?”

What made you want to get into this business in the first place?
It was almost by accident. When I was 14, my mom sent me back to Colombia because I was getting into a lot of trouble with street gangs in L.A., and when I came back at the age of 17, I did my last year of high school and I just happened to take a theater class. It was the first time I had been exposed to the arts. It opened up my world and I was able to deal with so many issues. I fell in love and I understood the power of telling stories, and that led to going to college and studying film, which then led to my first narrative film called On The Outs, about three young incarcerated women. The ability to tell these stories with great respect and detail is something that I will push, beg, crawl, borrow, and steal for.

There are so many great behind-the-scenes players in Latin cinema today. Who inspires you?
My favorite director of all time is Walter Salles [from The Motorcycle Diaries]. That movie was a huge inspiration for us on this film. I hope to work with him one day as an actress and a collaborator.

Well, it seems you are well on your way!
I hope so!

For more info on Entre Nos, including the trailer and Paola’s blog, check out entrenosfilm.com