Tuesday, July 23, 2024

Carmen is a unique tale of female empowerment

We are always on the lookout for art that empowers people in our age group, especially women, queer and straight alike.

We received phenomenal feedback on Good Luck to You, Leo Grande, starring Emma Thompson; and we think we have found another film that falls into that realm of self-discovery and rebirth that can come later in life — with Carmen.

Carmen is perhaps veteran director and accomplished actor Valerie Buhagiar’s most joyous film outing yet. Set in a sun-dappled village in Malta in the 1980s, Natascha McElhone gives a career-best performance as a 50-year-old woman finding a new start in life through romance. 

In a small Mediterranean village, Carmen has looked after her brother, the local priest, for her entire life. When the Church abandons Carmen, she is mistaken for the new priest. Carmen begins to see the world, and herself, in a new light.

In Malta, it is tradition for the younger sister to devote her life to the church when an older brother enters the priesthood. Inspired by true events, Carmen lives a life of servitude from the age of 16 until 50, when her brother dies. Realizing her own mortality, she leaves the church and makes up for lost time.

“Carmen is inspired by an old Maltese tradition,” explained Buhagiar. “When a young man became a priest, his eldest sister was to follow him to the rectory and be his maid. She did not get an education, a family of her own, or a salary. Many women’s voices were squashed, and their spirits dampened. This happened to my Aunt, now 95 years old. When I last saw her, she said, ‘I had a terrible life, no one cared about me.’ And she wept.”

She continued: “This film is for my Aunt and all the women who’ve suffered this tradition under the patriarchy. In our film, Carmen is a fiery young girl forced to leave her burgeoning life behind when her brother becomes the village priest. Forced into servitude for decades, Carmen’s childhood secrets, desires, and lost loves are ready to overtake her. Carmen is a sexual, spiritual, necessary awakening of a woman who has so much to say she can ring the bells of Malta with one sigh.”

The film is being distributed by Good Deed Entertainment and will release theatrically in New York City and Los Angeles with exclusive engagements in Chicago, San Francisco (Bay Area) and Detroit on Friday, September 23. It will also be released simultaneously to VOD platforms in the US and Canada on the same day.

Carmen is Buhagiar’s third feature film as a director. Previously she directed The Anniversary (2014) and It’s Hard to Be Human (2018).  She first burst on the scene as a performer in such classic Canadian films as Roadkill (1989) and Highway 61 (1991). Other indelible feature performances include Expecting (2002), A Winter Tale (2007) and Adriatico My Love (2011). 

For more information and to purchase theater tickets head over to the film’s official website here.  

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Queer Forty Staff

Queer Forty writing staff work hard to bring you all the latest articles to help inspire and inform.

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