Another Latina who wowed the audience at the Katra Film Series with her film The Things We Don’t Say was Soleidy Mendez. Born in the Dominican Republic, Mendez says that her passion for filming was inspired by the 1980s Mexican telenovela, El extraño retorno de Diana Salazar, starring Lucía Méndez (who is of no relation to Soleidy). “It was very cinematic. It was a period piece, and they had a lot of CGI and graphics. I was surprised. I hadn’t seen that before, and that caught my curiosity—how they created fire and how her eyes would change, because it was about telekineses. It was very interesting,” the filmmaker says of the soap opera she watched as a little girl.
Mendez’s penchant for film led her to the New York Film Academy. “I wanted to know acting from both perspectives – both in front of the camera and behind the camera – so I decided to take a 12-week course at the New York Film Academy, and I got hooked!” she said. “I really liked the control you have, the way that I love telling stories with my own perspective, how I see things and try to influence people in a positive way—and I love the control that creating your own film and creating your own content gives you.”
Her first film project as part of her course didn’t go off as well as she hoped, though. “My first film project was a very short film. It was very funny because we did it with my neighbors. We did it in my apartment, and we used everyone that we knew. Right then, I began to understand all of the challenges in filmmaking—how you have to plan ahead, and have a budget, and have control over time, and cast real actors, not your friends,” she quipped. “My first project was about a learning experience.”
By the time The Things We Don’t Say came around, Mendez was better prepared for the challenge. For this film, her focus were on the trials and tribulations of the elderly—something that she tells us she is very passionate about. The film tells the story of Pierre, an elderly man who believing his life is coming to an end, decides to have a long overdue conversation with Rose, his deceased wife.
“[The Things We Don’t Say] talks about depression in old age. I was raised by my grandmother, who was a very strong, independent and positive woman. A lot of who I am is because of her. The way I see the elderly is with different eyes. I don’t like how society sometimes ignores them and mistreats them. I want to raise awareness that these people are a part of our lives, and we shouldn’t neglect them or forget them,” Mendez passionately expressed.
Every filmmaker brought with them their own past experiences and their own unique storylines to put forth must-watch projects. And these were only a handful of the talent showcased at the Katra Film Series. If you missed out on Katra, don’t fret. We’re told that the Katra organizers will be holding another festival – the Bowery Film Festival – running from August 15-18. If you’re looking to discover more emerging talented filmmakers, make sure not to miss out on this exciting film fest.