A Conversation With LALIFF’s ‘My Two Voices’ Director Lina Rodriguez

My Two Voices BELatina Latinx
Image courtesy of BELatina.

One of our favorite festivals is back, and we couldn’t wait to tell you about it. LALIFF (Los Angeles Latino International Film Festival) is back this year with a lineup to die for.

LALIFF is one of the most important festivals in our community and is often the premier event for films that change narratives and open fundamental conversations for our Latino community.

In its 21st edition, LALIFF is coming on strong with carefully selected films, including the opening night documentary “Mija,” which portrays the plight of undocumented immigrants. Similarly, LALIFF has been the premier event for “My Two Voices,” the new project by Colombian-Canadian director Lina Rodriguez.

“My Two Voices” addresses the plight of three Latina immigrant women in a “poetic reflection on the fluid nature of identity.” 

The documentary tells the incredibly raw stories of Ana Garay Kostic, Claudia Montoya, and Marinela Piedrahit in the voice of an omniscient narrator in 68 minutes.

With great mastery, Rodriguez managed to convey her vision through experimental images that accompany the narrative and reflection on the experience of immigrants in Canada.

“My Two Voices” explores themes that are familiar to us all, such as motherhood, violence, resilience, and survival. The truth is that how Rodriguez has been able to capture these harrowing stories with kindness while creating a safe space for the narrators is beyond us.

However, when in doubt, it is always best to go to the source.

BELatina had the opportunity to speak with Lina Rodríguez about “My Two Voices,” the stories behind it, and the creative process behind the documentary.

Considering identity is crucial in any narrative, tell us how you captured it through the stories of three Latin American women.

That was one of my first tasks: how to capture their identity, not only as people but also as immigrants. Identity is always fluid. I didn’t set out to capture anything or fix anything. [Instead] I was trying to find ways that would speak about this sort of fluidity and hybridity that is close to my own immigrant identity but also my identity as a woman. So the process of making the film was really more of moving toward the women I collaborated with.

Instead of thinking that I was just going to come and take something from them or capture something from them, I tried to approach it as a human activity, which is what filmmaking is for me. I tried to move toward them, and spend time with them. And it was through that process of listening to them and sharing some of our stories as immigrants, [and] as women that the film, [that] the relationship – the human relationship took shape.

Then I started thinking about ways to portray them. The film is an interpretation of who they are. I didn’t want to fix them, [so] that’s one of the reasons why I decided to make the film the way I did. It invites the audience on a journey to get a sense of the women in different ways: through gesture, texture, small quotidian activities, and domestic spaces.

It’s only towards the end of the film that we get to see their faces. I made this choice because I didn’t want the audience to feel they “knew” who these women are just because they saw their faces because they could “identify” them. Because we are not only faces but whole bodies, and our bodies carry so much experience and history that I wanted to find a way to see them differently, not to define them or categorize them.

How long did it take to capture these narratives?
We shot over the course of the summer, but before actually just showing up to shoot, it was a process of encountering each other. Some of it kind of came from me meeting Claudia, who’s one of the women in the film. 

She is an immigration settler here in Toronto. Claudia is like a community weaver. And what she does – I wish I had known her when I first came – she helps people, mostly Latin American immigrants, connect to resources but also connect to the community. I met her during a Latin American film festival; at the time, I was writing a fiction film. I asked if she would be open to give me feedback on the script, which is a film about a Colombian woman illegally crossing the border into Canada.

Claudia graciously agreed so we started spending time together, and it was from this relationship that the idea of making a film with her emerged. I wanted to celebrate Claudia and the incredible work she does so I asked if she could introduce me to women that she had supported in their immigrant journeys so I could talk to them about their experiences. 

I wanted to focus on women because in my own experience, at least in Toronto, a lot of women end up taking the leadership once the family arrives here. A lot of the time it is the women who take chances, go out and find a job (even if they don’t speak English), even if it’s not a job that matches their qualifications and training.

I really wanted to highlight the leadership, perseverance, and resourcefulness of immigrant women within the Latin American community here in the Greater Toronto Area. 

How was the recording process of “My Two Voices”?

It was a process of spending time together. First of all, we spoke on the phone. Then I went to their houses without a camera – just by myself. Just to spend time together and chat. Later I went with the team just to do a test. So we just didn’t really go to shoot, but we went to do some tests for film stock because I shot in super 16 [film], and it was a very small team.

And then, over the course of the summer, so two months, we shot on different days and different times according to their schedules. And one of the things that I did, speaking of what I was saying earlier about how I chose to shoot the film, was that I wanted to shoot images separately.

So the images that you see were shot on film in super 16. Alex (the Director of Photography) and I shot with women while Sofia (a friend and filmmaker who I invited to be part of the team) was recording sound of the spaces. Then, Sofia and I went back later to record the conversations. Given that Sofia didn’t speak Spanish, in a way it was just me and the women in their bedrooms having a conversation. 

Ultimately, the images were shot in collaboration with them in terms of what they wanted to do, what they wanted to wear, [and] where they wanted to do it.

What else can you tell us about “My Two Voices?”

I would like to talk about the title “Mis Dos Voces”. I chose it because it includes me as the filmmaker and as an immigrant, it makes me part of the choir, even if my voice is not present. Also, as I’ve mentioned, it was really important for me to be reciprocal to their trust and generosity, which is why I aimed to create an intimate space so we could encounter each other and see and hear each other. I didn’t want it to feel like they are narrators talking at somebody, but instead I wanted the audience to feel that Ana, Claudia and Marinela are talking with me. I make films because I want to learn from people and meeting these three extraordinary women was a beautiful gift, I learned a lot from them and their experiences.