What is a woman? There are countless amounts of social qualifications ranging from personality to action to life trajectory that shift and alter with both time and culture. Does the definition of womanhood lie with the population of women themselves? And how do we let them know it’s theirs to craft? Patricia Ortega’s newest film “MAMACRUZ” is a testament to finding your power at any age and embracing the blossoming of self love both through and beyond your sexuality. 

We are introduced to the character of Mamacruz as a mother, a grandmother, and a wife. While learning how to operate her new iPad, she mindlessly clicks on an ambiguous link that leads her to the world of online pornography. While her instant reaction is that of immediate mortification and shock, a lingering pause on the content is an ignition of her own desire. As the yearn for sexuality wriggles its way to the forefront of her mind, she yearns to draw attention to it, explore it, and rediscover what womanhood means to her. This leads her to joining a sex therapy group with other women her age who are looking to embrace their power of seduction and take claim over their pleasure.

“MAMACRUZ” streaks the portrait of its lead character with strokes of contradiction as she embarks on the path of reframing her existence. Her home life is depicted in a series of clinical, rigid wide shots. Tableaus of her day-to-day are swathed in pastels and neutrals, her domesticity defined by its so-called purity and order. Numerous frame within a frame shots, visuals through mirrors or curtains, and Skype calls relay her emotional distance in the proximity of her loved ones. However scenes with her sex therapy group contain mirages of warm, flooded light, fluid camera movement, and intimate blocking that proves the physical and social closeness of the women involved. 

Every stitch of the film’s lining is woven with adoration and respect for elder women refusing to be left behind by tradition. The script seizes the essence of the grace, bravery, and humor that comes with rediscovery. Subverting the idea that sexuality is objectification, “MAMACRUZ” projects that it’s actually the unyielding social expectation of the sexless elder that is dehumanizing. Mamacruz’s subjective choice and discovery, despite the looming presence of her church and traditionalist husband, is a heart-flooding liberation.

Kiti Mánver appears in MAMACRUZ by Patricia Ortega, an official selection of the World Dramatic Competition at the 2023 Sundance Film Festival. Courtesy of Sundance Institute. All photos are copyrighted and may be used by the press only for the purpose of news or editorial coverage of Sundance Institute programs. Photos must be accompanied by a credit to the photographer and/or ‘Courtesy of Sundance Institute.’ Unauthorized use, alteration, reproduction or sale of logos and/or photos is strictly prohibited.

Kiti Mánver delivers a stunning performance teeming with reservation that explodes into a crescendo of power. Her eyes are nimble in expressing the labyrinthine thought processes Mamacruz navigates.  She embodies a delicate demeanor while also portraying the bravery in flinging herself from the platform of repression into the air of reclamation.

Religious conscience is enforced by figurines, imagery, and social practices that live and breathe in her world. Lighting a candle every time her mind is overcome with desire is a physical repentance, but also an emotional representation of the self-ignition taking place within. The fist of devout Christianity is present in whispers and fleeting compulsions, but allows itself to exist amidst Mamacruz’s swelling interiority. The personal renaissance depicted in “MAMACRUZ” is an attestation that coming of age doesn’t have to involve sacrifice; growth does not require the shedding of values. The script and performance is nurturing to this character and appreciative of the gift that women are to each other. The education of shared lack, disparate experiences, and the grace of mutual understanding and flaw are the tides of this film’s power. 

“MAMACRUZ” is firm without righteousness. It is an ode to sisterhood, sexuality, and finding your power at any age. The conversational and grounded script, as well as the down to earth performances, inject us into the psyche of its women rather than feeding us dogma. The nuance and understatement of “MAMACRUZ” allow its voice to reverberate, to project, and to deliver its heart directly into ours. There is no fluff, ego, or pride in telling this story, only love and exploration of the ideology and degrees of lust, desirability, and ownership.

Cinema Femme Sundance and Slamdance coverage is sponsored by Noisefloor Sound Solutions and the Siskel Film Center.

Learn more about the film and get tickets.

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