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Tribeca Takes: Paola Mendoza on Entre Nos

Paola Mendoza reflects on the year since her premiere at TFF 2009. After traveling to film festivals around the world, the most rewarding story was waiting back at home in Queens.



A heartbreaking, but ultimately inspiring, story of a single mother's immigration to NYC, Entre Nos was one of the undisputed crowd favorites of the 2009 Tribeca Film Festival. The film, which also won an honorable jury mention, clearly resonated with audiences who related to the simple story of struggle, poverty, and, above all, love.


On the eve of the film's theatrical release this weekend, co-director (and star of the film) Paola Mendoza shares stories from the last year, during which she's learned that interactions with real people certainly trump reviews. [Note: The New York Times review is quite lovely.]



As Entre Nos gears up for its NYC theatrical release this Friday, I’m entering a new stage… REVIEWS! As of this morning, we have been reviewed by two NYC sources, and to be quite honest they have been mixed at best. Did it hurt when I first read them? Yes. Did my stomach drop? Yes. Did I curse the reviewers? Yes. Did I lose sleep over the reviews? Yes. But when I woke up this morning I reminded myself that I did not make this film for critics; I made this film for the people. And the people have applauded, cried and laughed.
This morning I remembered the woman who came up to me after we screened the film in Havana. She couldn’t talk, tears were running down her face, and when I put my arms around her she melted into my embrace and cried uncontrollably. After a few moments she composed herself, smiled at me and walked away. I never found out her name, never even heard her voice, but I will remember her always.


I also remembered that gentleman in Newport who waited patiently over 45 minutes to speak to me. When his turn finally came, he grabbed my hand tightly and, holding back tears, confessed that he was a doctor who had retired over 6 months ago, and he said this film made him realize he was not contributing to those in his community who needed help. He promised me—and then promised himself—that he was going to start to volunteer, helping newly arrived immigrants. I smiled at him, because I didn’t know what to say. He thanked me and then walked away. As I watched him leave the theater, I held back my own tears.


The most profound experience happened just this last weekend in Jackson Heights [Queens], where we screened Entre Nos for the community. After the screening, a family of three approached me and the mother was an emotional wreck—she could barely speak—but what she did manage to say was that she had heard so much about me over the past year and that she was so happy to finally see the film and meet me. The daughter told me that she and her brother had seen the film at Tribeca last year and were so moved by the film because it was a reflection of their own story. They too had been abandoned by their father and raised by their immigrant mother, and they lived through many of the same things shown in the film. They had spoken to me last year after one of the screenings, and as crazy as it sounds, I remembered them.


I remembered the sister wanted to be a filmmaker; she was a junior in high school. She talked about how she wanted to tell her own story, but she couldn’t imagine where to begin because it was still so raw, and she was still so angry. I gave her the best advice I could, we hugged and I wished her luck. Exactly a year later, there she was with her mother and her brother, excited to tell me that Entre Nos had inspired her, it had given her the courage to write her own story. She finished her screenplay and submitted it as a writing sample for film school. This young woman had come back to tell me that she had been accepted to her first choice, Emerson College. She told me with pride that she would be the first person in her family to go to college.
This morning I was reminded why I make movies. I make movies to move people, to challenge them and to inspire them. When I hear that my movie contributed in any way to a young woman going to college, it no longer matters what critics say. The only thing that matters are the thousands of people I have met around the world while sharing my film.


Entre Nos will open at the Quad Cinema on May 14 in New York City.
For more information, visit the official website. (You can even learn to make empanadas!)
Like Entre Nos on Facebook.


Watch the trailer:



Watch Paola's PSA for Immigration Reform:



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