Roads to the heart

PHLAFF presents Nicol Ruiz Benavides’s ‘La Nave Del Olvido’

3 minute read
That feeling of falling in love: Romana Satt and Rosa Ramírez in ‘La Nave Del Olvido.’ (Image courtesy of PHLAFF.)
That feeling of falling in love: Romana Satt and Rosa Ramírez in ‘La Nave Del Olvido.’ (Image courtesy of PHLAFF.)

The Philadelphia Latino Film Festival returns this year for a virtual showcase featuring the innovative work of emerging and established Latinx filmmakers. La Nave Del Olvido (Forgotten Roads) gets it Philadelphia premiere as one of the Lola Award Winners in the festival.

The 2020 film, directed and written by Nicol Ruiz Benavides, follows 70-year-old Claudina (Rosa Ramírez), a recent widow living in the countryside of southern Chile. Under financial distress, she moves in with her daughter and grandson and meets their neighbor Elsa (Romana Satt), a 65-year-old woman who is often alone while her husband travels for work. Claudina builds a fast friendship and then romantic relationship with Elsa, helping her discover and explore a truer love and more freedom than she’s ever known, despite the judgment of her daughter and the small religious town she grew up in.

No future without the past or present

Benavides, a native of Chile, captures quintessential Chilean countryside with a studied, artistic intimacy. We don’t see the most beautiful landscapes Chile has to offer, but instead its bare bones, with shots of Claudina feeding turkeys on her farm and walking through the neighborhood, lined with modest homes against the backdrop of towering trees and clouds.

The subtle, steady script straddles the perfect balance of simplicity and powerful meaning. On paper, the film could be boiled down to only a handful of significant scenes, yet in the 71-minute run time, it feels like a lifetime—in a good way.

The romance between Claudina and Elsa builds gradually, including the joy and energy of sexual awakening. Ramírez plays Claudina with such innocence and authenticity that you feel transported to the familiar giddy sensation of falling in love, exploring your own desire, and discovering something new that brings immense happiness to your world. The film beautifully illustrates the opportunity for rebirth after loss or grief.

“I would have liked to meet you before,” Claudina says to Elsa, longing to depart for a place where they can love each other openly. “Maybe then you wouldn’t be here with me now,” Elsa answers.

It’s an eloquent reminder of the significance of timing: every decision we make, every risk we take, and every moment of growth guides us to our future—a future that wouldn’t exist without the past or present, and the peace that can accompany that knowledge.

It’s never too late

As I found during my own year living in Chile, its culture is a mix of conservatism, progressivism, and everything in between. My landlords were two gay Chilean men who also lived in the building. Their space was a haven for queer folk and artists, one of them running a dance school on the ground floor of the apartment building. I witnessed Chile’s queer subculture, where many didn’t feel safe to flaunt or celebrate their sexuality in public.

Benavides wants this film to be about personal freedom: “The difficult decision to know yourself, to explore, and to learn how to leave the fear, the insecurity, and the social standards that don’t allow us to be what we want to be.” La Nave Del Olvido is a tender film exploring love, pain, and how it’s never too late to seek and discover your own personal truth.

Image description: A scene from La Nave Del Olvida. A close-up shows actors Rosa Ramírez and Romana Satt with their arms around each other, looking at each other tenderly.

What, When, Where

La Nave Del Olvido (Forgotten Roads). Written and directed by Nicol Ruiz Benavides. Available to stream at the Philadelphia Latino Film Festival June 1-3, 2021. PHLAFF 2021 runs from May 30 to June 6.

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