Institute History

  • 1998 Sundance Film Festival


In a simple opening, Paulina, a housekeeper, sweeps leaves in the garden of a wealthy Mexico City home. As she proceeds to other tasks, she speaks of her duties, talks to her kitchen appliances, talks to the food she is preparing. Intercut are scenes from her past. Suddenly this powerful documentary enters a dramatic superreality as it shows a younger Paulina on a rural bus returning to her family village to seek revenge for past injustices. Various views of reality unfold on the screen: how Paulina remembers the event, how other passengers saw the same circumstances.

Paulina has worked in the homes of the rich for some forty years. In the 1950s, when she was a child in rural Veracruz, her parents traded her for land rights. Mistakenly labeled a victim of rape, Paulina was ostracized by all, cast from school, separated from her siblings, and handed over to the town boss, Mauro, who claimed her as his personal property. She quickly became a victim of his brutality and sexual exploitation, but often escaped to the local cemetery, where she spoke to death. She chose to live only because of her daughter, Rosa Marie. Paulina weaves together the personal recollections of its subject with those of her family and friends, blending narrative storytelling techniques with the conventions of the traditional documentary. What results are equal parts personal diary, talking-head documentary, and vivid reenactment of a courageous woman’s struggle to live life on her own terms.

Vicky Funari, Director
Vicky Funari was born in Virginia in 1963. She grew up in Jordan, India, Mexico, and the United States and settled in San Francisco in 1988. Funari studied film and video at New York University and assistant directed the fiction feature Working Girls (1986), directed by Lizzie Borden. Among her other credits, she produced and shot the documentary Alternative Conceptions (1986) and produced and directed skin•es•the•si•a (1994), an award-winning experimental videotape.

Screening Details

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