While having a conversation with her mother one day, filmmaker Lissette Feliciano was stunned when she told her about some of the challenges she faced as a woman working in the real estate business in the 1960s and 70s. The underlying, oppressive nature of the stories sounded familiar to her.
“I was shocked that some of the stuff she was telling me was legal back then,” Feliciano told Remezcla during a recent interview. “Women couldn’t get credit cards. They had to get a co-signer for a house. It was almost like a conservatorship that existed for women—particularly women of color.”
In response to the heart-to-heart talk she had with her mom, Feliciano, who is Puerto Rican, Ecuadorian and “a little bit of everything,” made a film that spoke to some of those frequently ignored issues. Women is Losers, named after the 1967 Janis Joplin song, is a story not only inspired by her mother and grandmother’s lives, but also her own. She wanted to give the film some more contemporary elements.
“I think our mothers protect us by not telling us certain things, but sometimes in protecting us, they blind us,” Feliciano said. “I kind of saw how some of these situations were happening in my own life.”
Women is Losers stars Chilean actress Lorenza Izzo (Once Upon a Time…In Hollywood) as Celina, a young woman trying to get her life together in 1960s San Francisco despite her social and economic limitations and dysfunctional home life. Raising a child on her own, Celina sets a course for her future and refuses to back down despite the opposition she meets along the way.
“I’ve experienced my fair share of challenges,” Feliciano said. “I think it was really important that my mother enlightened me and told me her story.”
In the film, Celina’s life is made more difficult by the men in her orbit, including the absent father of her son, her insensitive boss and her abusive father.
Feliciano, however, is not interested in making the male characters out to be the villains of the story. She wants them to serve as a catalyst for male viewers to understand the importance of listening to and supporting the women in their lives. She doesn’t subscribe to terms like “machismo” or “toxic masculinity” because she considers them culture and gender-specific.
“In reality, it seems like what we are all really talking about is misogyny,” she said. “The film asks audiences to examine their own role in perpetuating the status quo. Whaat would the world look like if we embraced women’s stories without somehow taking away from the men? Wouldn’t that be a cool world? I think we’re getting there.”
Women is Losers premieres at the SXSW Film Festival March 16 at 10 a.m. CT.
This piece was updated on Saturday, March 13.