MORELIA – Behind Impulso Morelia co-winner “Plaza de la Soledad,” the feature debut of Maya Goded, an internationally renown Mexican photographer, is getting-on-for-20-years of acquaintance, friendships, insights and photos – many photos, a 2006 book of the same title – of the prostitute community of La Merced, in central Mexico City, where women have sold their bodies since Aztec times.
Judging by the Impulso Morelia top prize and buzz emerging from an industry-only screening at Impulso Morelia, fest’s inaugural pix-in-post showcase, that deep knowledge has been put to very good use. In an early show of distribution interest, Cinepolis Distribución is offering a Mexico distribution guarantee and $15,000 P & A to “Plaza.”
A Magnum Agency photographer, Goded is multi-prized – by the W. Eugene Smith and Guggenheim Foundations and the Netherlands’ Prince Claus Prize. “Plaza” has
prestige producer backing: Martha Sosa, a co-executive producer on Alejandro Gonzalez Iñarritu’s debut “Amores Perros”, Monica Lozano, producer of “Instructions Not Included,” and Eamon O’Farrill (“Carriere, 250 Metros”).
Goded’s friendship with La Merced’s often ageing sex-workers has been a journey of discovery and of admiration which talks about female sexuality at large.
Befriending its prostitutes, invited to their homes, Goded began to take photos of them. They eventually became the basis of her first exhibition, at Span’s Reina Sofia Museum, and the basis of a book, sporting b/w portraits, “Plaza de la Soledad.”
The book humanized its subjects. “It was an important challenge for me: Pure portraits, of women who didn’t appear to be prostitutes. They were mothers, allowing the viewer to identify with them, and only realize later that they were prostitutes.
When she first became interested in older streetwalkers, “People told me: ‘But they’re not young. It won’t sell.’ When I began to take photos, there was one that disconcerted me a lot, but which I like a lot, an old woman, Juanita, who later died, in bed with a man who had been her client for 50 years. Theirs’ was a relationship of love. That moved me. I didn’t really expect that.”
The film “Plaza de la Soledad” turns on five mostly elderly prostitutes who work the titular square in the La Merced. The ensemble drama format, Goded says, allows her to suggest common causes, consequences of prostitution. One, she hinted at, is how abuse in childhood leaves hostages to fortune.
“In one scene, one of the prostitutes is looking at herself in the mirror and says, referring to her lover: ‘She hit me, then we made love: I liked it.’ It’s just a detail, but still highly important, as if there’s been a rupture in normal relations.”
Per Lozano, producers have to clear rights to several songs; beyond that, “Plaza de la Soledad” is near finished. Following Morelia, it weighs in as one of Mexico’s most awaited documentaries of early 2016.