Comadres Review

AKA: Close Friends
Genre: Documentary/Slice-of-Life
Year Released: 2014

Distributor: Unlicensed

Origin: Venezuela

Running Time: 8 minutes

Rating/Recommended Audience: PG
Related Films/Series: N/A
For Fans Of: Beatrice, Wrinkles

-Comadres is streaming on Vimeo.

-Check out Lorena Alvarado’s page here.

Fun Facts:
-Comadres is the debut documentary from Lorena Alvarado.

-Lorena Alvarado has also commissioned video works with the Women Empowerment program and Safe Birth Even Here which is a campaign that deals with preventing mothers who die during childbirth.

Lorena Alvarado is a director to watch out for. After checking out her short documentary Beatrice, I simply had to check out more of her video projects from this up-and-coming filmmaker based in Caracas, Venezuela. One of the next videos I saw from her portfolio was this little documentary of all things.

Comadres is a snapshot into the life of Lorena’s grandmother Enailda Rincon, or Ena for short. Ena lives with her caretaker Galis in a small house in Venezuela. Her husband had died some time ago which psychology affected her to the point of hindering her sense of reality despite not technically being diagnosed with Alzheimer’s or any other forms of dementia. She has trouble remembering her name, is incommunicado most of the time, and it’s up to Gaila to help her do basic activities. Galis has worked for the Rincons for quite some time and she’s still there helping her remember her hobbies and lives in this vignette of a documentary.

This was a sobering documentary as it pulls no punches in its eight-minute length. Even though this was only a fragment of Ena’s life, I felt that I knew so much about her in so little time. Without her husband, the only constant in her life is Gaila who lives with her and helps her function out there even if it’s doing mundane activities like watching TV. It’s just heartbreaking seeing Ena feeling so lost in this world, but I’m happy that Gaila and the rest of the family are there to help her the rest of the way through. 

The production of Comadres is quite good. There are nice and crisp shots of the whole event, but they never feel overproduced. What really made this documentary click was the occasional home video footage of the whole family and Gaila from years ago where she is clearly more cognizant. One contrasting pair of scenes that really hit me in the feels involved two separate parts with birthdays. There’s the home video footage of Irene (one of the granddaughters) blowing out candles on her birthday during her childhood years. It’s then contrasted with Ena at her birthday. The family sings to her, but she couldn’t even blow the candles, so another family member had to do it for her. It was quite tragic seeing those scenes right next to each other despite the festivities going on in the past and what would be the present in Comadres. The fact that Galis was also seen as a second grandmother to others shows how close she was to the family despite clearly not being related to everyone else. This was some powerful content there.

Comadres was a quality documentary, but I didn’t think everything was perfect. I noticed some parts weren’t subtitled such as the background TV. One can blame it on my lack of Spanish language knowledge, but I would’ve liked to know what was being said. One artistic choice I would’ve liked to have seen would be Lorena talking about how much Ena meant to her. Another thing that some viewers may take umbrage when looking at this film out of context would be that Gaila is Afro-Venezuelan in a caretaker role. It could be interpreted as enforcing servile stereotypes for Black people, but I never thought that was the case, unlike other fictional and non-fictional media I’ve seen. I didn’t see it as tokenism and I’m glad they didn’t present her as a servant, but some of the connotations could still be there. Also, the subject matter is quite rough. After watching Wrinkles and after my Grandma died a few months ago, I thought it was too much at times even though she never suffered from dementia like my paternal Grandfather which I explained when I reviewed that aforementioned Spanish animated film.

This documentary was another win for Venezuelan director Lorena Alvarado. Comadres is a touching story where you have two close friends who need each other in so many ways. The visual presentation was on point and creative with a mix of old and newer footage. There’s some good acoustic background music to accentuate certain scenes. It does get quite depressing at parts and some connotations could turn off some viewers though. Comadres is still worth your eight minutes to watch.

Adjustable Point System:

Add 1 point if you like realistic documentaries.
Subtract 2-3 points if you are sensitive to mental issues in film.

-Great visual production
-Powerful story with Gaila and Ena
-Good BGM scoring

-Some more context could’ve been used for the documentary
-Connotations of Gaila’s job in regards to her ethnicity could be a turn-off
-Can be too depressing to watch

Final Score: 8/10 Points

Content Warning: Comadres is quite tame, but the subject matter is dark. The main subject is Ena who clearly has some mental issues and needs lots of assistance to get by. That may be lost on younger viewers and can be depressing for older ones.

-Curtis Monroe

All photos property of their respective owners and used under US “Fair Use” laws. Comadres is property of Lorena Alvarado. The Comadres photo is from Vimeo and is property of Lorena Alvarado.

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