It came as a notable surprise to many individuals in the audience at this year’s Chicago Latino Film Festival during a post screening Q & A, when the three women directors of Venezuela’s 1, 2 y 3 Mujeres announced that the three short stories featured in their collaborative film were written by (mainly) men. Throughout the 90 minute-plus running time the male characters in this vibrant and colorful feature are often seen as absent authority figures or slimy, greedy insects.
Though a highly uneven film, the trilogy of narratives each shares their high moments. Whether it’s painting the coldness of a law office or capturing the profound beauty of peasant farming, the three short films somehow retain a sense of visual exuberance that helps keep the audience’s interest afloat during some tepid scenes and flat dramatic moments.
The first story follows a high-rise office cleaner who lives alone with her overweight (yet spunky) son. One day she finds a stash of petty cash hidden in the men’s restroom. The decisions she makes on how to handle the treasure and the implications it makes on the question of fiscal ethics are intriguing enough. Part of the problem with 1, 2 y 3 Mujeres is that this first story is so engaging that the following pair of stories always seem to cower in its shadow. The second story follows another women cleaner who tends to a wealthy married couple of doctors and their spacious mansion. Part forbidden romance—or to a more appropriate extent, lust—and part ode to a simpler time in one’s life—the innocence of childhood—this middle section seems confused about its own voice. The closing segment follows a family four—a mother, two daughters and an infant son—who work on their humble farm day in and day out, all in the hopes that their elusive father will one day be home for supper. If you are already guessing the father doesn’t pull through, then you are two steps ahead of this section’s script.
Still, 1, 2 y 3 Mujeres is worth seeking out if only for it to be savored for its fleeting moments of whimsy and dazzling images. The film was a production of Venezuela’s Villa de Cine, an apt and capable production house. When directors Rios, Herrera and Rodríguez revealed that this production house exclusively approached them for the project based solely on the fact that they were independent filmmakers (and more importantly female Venezuelan filmmakers) in an effort to try something fresh, one can’t help but admire the sheer existence of this piece of filmmaking.