‘Ama’ is mother in Basque although Júlia de Paz Solvas has chosen this title for her first film because of the imperative of the verb to love. “Mistress!” it is what the spectator would shout at the protagonist of this drama with many possibilities of appearing in the list of winners of Malaga this Saturday. A nervous camera sticks to the face of a desperate woman, on the edge, who goes to a disco in a coastal town in Alicante where she works handing out flyers to get a line of coca. She is an irresponsible and foul-mouthed mother with a six-year-old daughter whom a friend who can’t take it anymore and who welcomes them puts her feet on the street. The first time we see her with the girl, she doesn’t touch her, kiss her, or hug her. Everyone reproaches her for not taking care of her daughter.
With a footage that does not reach an hour and a half, ‘Ama’, which will hit theaters on July 16, she dares to expose the sacrosanct concept of motherhood. Its 25-year-old young director joins the female voices discovered at this festival: Carla Simón, Elena Trapé, Pilar Palomero … Despite her youth, Júlia de Paz has the mature gaze of a narrator who knows how to tell things in a synthetic way and subtle. His great luck is to have an extraordinary actress, Tamara Casellas, which also makes its debut in the feature film and has secured the prize for female interpretation in Malaga. His is also the miracle that we go from condemning this woman who feeds her daughter junk food to feeling sorry for her when she caresses the cesarean scar on her belly.
The director recognizes that it is not usual in the cinema to grant the leading role to a mother who does not know how to be a mother. “We have a concept of educational motherhood and also through what we have learned in the cinema,” she explains. «Since I was little I have seen in the movies that a mother gives everything for her children, that has been the only reference. For them he loses his freedom and identity. The reality is something else and I have been able to verify it with my own mother. The only thing that this image causes is damage, it is another tool that the system and society have to oppress women. We will never reach that ideal of motherhood and that causes us eternal frustration.
‘Ama’ arises as a final year project at ESCAC, the Barcelona film school that is the source of some of the most interesting directors of the moment. Júlia de Paz and the screenwriter Nuria Dunjó wrote a story based on two themes that obsess them: repentance and abandonment. We follow this overwhelmed woman who ends up sleeping on the beach with her daughter and who does not answer her mother’s cell phone calls. And little by little we empathize with his loneliness and lack of handles. “There are many types of maternity hospitals, because we are talking about a human relationship, we will never reach a normative motherhood because each case is different”, argues its author. In that sense, he believes, the protagonist is a courageous mother in her own way: «She tries to push herself forward without any recourse. The traditional representation of motherhood has been carried out by male directors. Socially, they want us to be the caregivers ».
The film does not give many explanations about the behavior of its particular heroine. We don’t know how it got there, but it doesn’t matter too much either. “We have worked on the past of the characters in the script, but we wanted the viewer to see Pepa as if she were a neighbor,” argues Júlia de Paz. “We judge people very easily and more so mothers. We call the protagonist a bad mother and we don’t know anything about her life. Little by little, despair finds consolation in the relationship of this disinherited from the system with her daughter, whom, as she confesses at one point, no one has taught her how to hug her. As happened in another chronicle of disaster motherhood set in a supposed vacation paradise, ‘The Florida Project’, of Sean Baker, we look with new eyes who we have judged in the beginning.
«In Malaga they have told me a lot: at the beginning you reject the character and at the end you want to hug him», the director congratulates. “This is what we wanted to achieve: before judging, ask yourself questions. Pepa may regret motherhood, because no one has explained what it was, but not of having her daughter. ‘Ama’ puts a very young author on the map of Spanish cinema who understands her job “as a tool of militancy.” «My roommates and my friends fight for their rights, each in their own way, and they have very clear ideas. I feel comfortable in the cinema and I intend to continue denouncing issues that are important without indoctrinating. I also study social education and I would like to combine cinema with workshops for women who can express themselves through audiovisual language ». Júlia de Paz finalizes a short film about sexist violence and prepares another feminist porn piece together with the gender actress and sex worker Maria Riot: “I have an internal debate about porn and I would like to face it,” he justifies. “I want to treat the woman’s sexuality and hers with herself.”