An elderly widow finds a new line of work after her husband dies in the Puerto Rican comedy-drama Perfume de Gardenias, which will have its world premiere at the Tribeca Film Festival on June 13.
Directed by queer Afro-Puerto Rican multidisciplinary artist and first-time feature filmmaker Macha Colón, the dark comedy follows Isabel (Luz Maria Rondon), a woman living in Puerto Rico who decides to give her husband a customized funeral. The ceremony catches the attention of a woman in the community who wants her to continue using her unusual talents to arrange unique funerals for other people. In doing so, Isabel finds new meaning to her own life.
In the first trailer for the film, a woman asks Isabel if she could start helping design more funerals. “I don’t know if you’re aware, we take care of almost all the funerals,” she says. “But we need someone creative, like you.” Isabel responds: “But what can I do?”
Viewers then get a sense of what Isabel can do with her creative abilities. She makes sculptures out of prescription medicine bottles and builds elegant settings for the funeral ceremonies. In one scene, we see that she has designed a funeral for someone who enjoyed fishing. Instead of the man’s body resting in a conventional coffin, he lays inside a wooden canoe with a fishing pole and aquarium beside him. As a backdrop, Isabel sets up a blue curtain with paper fish decorations hanging from it. Guests at the funeral take photos.
In another scene, Isabel has adorned the body of a woman with flowers and plants to look like La Virgen de Guadalupe. Isabel also explains that she can pre-arrange funerals and talk to people to find out what they would like their ceremony to look like. “That sounds a lot like wishing someone dead,” a woman says.
One of Isabel’s friends doesn’t seem to like her new job. She tells her, “When I die, I want to be buried in a hole in my backyard.”