The film pitch for Valentina is undeniably intriguing:
It’s the summer of 2025, and global warming has caused temperatures to skyrocket. Valentina is a middle-aged Latina, obsessed with her own personal hygiene. She channels this fastidiousness into her job as a cleaning lady, making her the maid of choice for affluent New Yorkers.
Valentina reports for duty at a sparkling, all-glass skyscraper on the hottest day ever recorded in the city. As she eagerly polishes and disinfects, the power goes out and the blistering sunlight turns the apartment into an oven. Sweat, heat, and moisture build up so much that Valentina’s vagina screams for mercy.
What starts as a simple cry for fresh air turns into an intervention as her vagina asks after her wages and demands better working conditions. The heat will force Valentina to come face-to-face with a part of her anatomy she’s always ignored, and it will embolden her in the process. Though Valentina initially finds her abhorrent, her vagina is truly an ally who will help her value herself and be proud of who she is.
After discovering the Kickstarter campaign for this short film, I wanted to back it and talk to the filmmaker Mary Angelica Molina right away. Based on some of her other films, it’s apparent her ambition is matched only by her creativity. Her vision is distinct and potent, as well as surreally provocative. Last fall, I published this Q&A with Ms. Molina and I’m happy to share it again now that Valentina is about to have it’s New York premiere this Saturday, October 14, as part of the New York Latino Film Festival.
The Ink & Code: After watching your Kickstarter campaign video and reading about the project, I wanted to talk to you. It’s actually difficult to come up with interview questions because you’ve touched on so many things and I just want to point to each one say, “Talk more about that, please!” To start, can you share a bit about your background? When did you come to the US from Colombia?
I&C: Which came first, the interest in making a film about female sexuality, climate change, and domestic workers’ rights or making one about a talking vagina?
Mary: The whole idea started because of the ecosystem of my own vagina. Like many women, my thighs rub against each other when I walk. The friction creates heat, the heat creates moisture, and so on. There’s always a moment of dread in the spring time, right before the weather starts to really heat up, when I’m like, “Here comes the swamp!” So, it was born out of a lot of self-awareness about my body. From that point, the character of the vagina emerged as the antithesis to my inner critic: She was a badass feminista who wouldn’t put up with injustice and maltreatment from anyone.
I&C: As an artist tackling such themes, do you find it is more important that your work inspire those who share your views or provoke those who might not yet and/or won’t?
Mary: I’m mostly interested in presenting an idea that then you get to take home, in your brain, and play with. I doubt that I can change your mind, but I’m going to try to fuck with your subconscious.
I&C: How important is humor in crafting a film focused on serious topics?
Mary: With humor, people tend to let their guard down. If people can laugh or be amused by something, they often think it’s innocuous even when there’s a lot there. In that way, I can engage lots of different kinds of people about topics that might initially appear too sensitive or polarizing or overwrought.
I&C: You stated you’re using a talking vagina “to examine how the body is both a vehicle and a cage, how it can represent and conceal who we are.” I feel your previous short Oh Baby, I Love You! also explored similar terrain. What fuels your interest in these explorations of the body?
Mary: As a queer person who has not always felt totally at home with being a woman, I generally don’t feel comfortable in my body. It represents me because it’s an extension of “me,” but it also doesn’t because it’s not the body I would have chosen for myself. So I have a lot of awareness around what it does or doesn’t do. I’m also aware of the narratives that people project onto it when they tick a box in their head that says, “Female.” What fuels my interest in these explorations is my desire to re-draw the boundaries around what we perceive to be female/feminine.
I&C: How did Paola Mendoza come aboard as the film’s executive producer?
Mary: I met Paola many years ago when her first feature Entre Nos came out. We just had a lot of things in common: Born in Colombia but grew up here; both filmmakers; both attended liberal arts schools; etc. As I’ve been developing my first feature, she’s been very generous with her time and advice. She then asked me to be a part of her writer’s group where she read Valentina, and encouraged me to get my work out there.
I&C: Who are some of your filmmaking influences?
Mary: There are lots of influences but here’s a few movies that exemplify some of the films and filmmakers that have made the biggest impact on me: Angel Exterminador by Buñuel, Poison by Todd Haynes, and Santa Sangre by Jodorowsky.
I&C: Is this your first time using crowdfunding to raise money for a film? What has been the biggest obstacle thus far?
Mary: This is my first time. The biggest obstacle has been my constant self doubt, my anxiety: Are we going to make it? Are we not? Will people like it? Maybe they won’t. Am I an asshole? But the critic in my head has been silenced some by all of the positive support the film has received so far. It’s like, maybe, I was meant to make films after all.
Tickets to see Valentina and other shorts at the NYLFF are on sale now!