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Laura Gomez on ‘Sand Bag,’ New Female Voices in Latin American Cinema, Projects

‘Orange is the New Black’ Dominican actress attends screening of ‘Samba,’ her latest film

PANAMA CITY  — Laura Gomez (“Orange Is the New Black”) attended the 7th IFF Panama for a panel on The Role of Women in a Globalized World,” and to be present at the screening of her Dominican Republic boxing film, “Sambá” (Sand Bag), directed by Laura Amelia Guzmán and Israel Cárdenas.

Gomez was born in 1979 in New Jersey, and raised in Santo Domingo, Dominican Republic. She says she embraced her role in “Sand Bag” because of the chance to work in DR again, and the creative freedom offered by the directors, which gave her the chance to make a boxing film that challenges the stereotypical view of this typically male-dominated universe.

“Originally the lead role was a male boxing-gym owner, and the woman was just his girlfriend. But once we changed the script, making her the owner, we could challenge the stereotypes and create a distinctive character.”

“I was very open for my character to be as free as the main male character in the film.  They both have very free lives and are open to make their own decisions. They are both sexually empowered, but are ultimately very lonely.”

Gomez says that the sexual freedom pursued by her character aroused interesting audience reactions, as revealed in Q&A sessions after screening of the film in the U.S. in which some audience members, including declared feminists, said that although the behavior of both the male and female characters was similar, they judged them differently.

Gomez says that starring as Blanca in Netflix’s “Orange is the New Black” was a liberating experience, not only because of the diverse cast, but also because of the key role of women behind the camera.

“We have had no sexual harassment issues because we have equal power. The show is about prisons, which are often portrayed in a cliched manner, but it humanizes the characters and by doing so shows the flaws of a system that is designed to make people fail.”

Gomez says that Season 6, which just wrapped and will bow on Netflix this summer, is even more powerful than previous seasons.

The actress highlighted the importance of the seminar at IFF Panama,

“The fact that this seminar was organized in one of Central America’s best known film festivals at this specific moment in time, is a reflection of the fest’s management team topped by Pituka and Diana Sánchez,” says Gomez.

“I think we’re often unaware of how we’re unconsciously perpetuating machismo in culture and how important it is to be aware of the system in order to change things. This isn’t a question of demonizing men or placing men and women in opposing camps. It’s about the system and we’re all in the same boat.”

Gomez says that the election of Trump has inadvertently been a “catalyst for focusing on a cancer that already existed,” but she also draws attention to the recent assassination of Mariella Franco in Brazil, who campaigned against police violence and racial and sexual prejudice.

She says that in addition to “Orange is the New Black” she has written the stage play about a failed marriage, “The Past is a Mirage,” developed in the context of the New York-based Women Artists Writing (WAW), to be shown in the Dorset Theatre Festival in Vermont

She says that she’s also developing film scripts.

“I want to become more pro-active about my career and write the roles that I’m not seeing in the scripts shown to me. In particular, I want to challenge the stereotypical roles given to men and women. We’re all part of the system, but we have to break the matrix in some way.”

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