An Immigrant Story
The social drama “Entre Nos” (“Between US”) chronicles the hardships endured by a Colombian immigrant and her two children. Co-written and co-directed by Paola Mendoza and Gloria LaMorte, “Entre Nos” is based on Mendoza’s early experiences when she, her mother and brother, shortly after arriving from Colombia, became homeless and were forced to scavenge for food and shelter in New York City.
Mendoza plays her own mother Mariana who follows her husband Antonio (Andres Munar) from their native country to Queens, New York. Soon afterwards, Antonio abandons her and their two children, Gabriel (Sebastian Villada), 10, and Andrea (Laura Montana), 6.
The undocumented Mariana tries to stay afloat by selling homemade empanadas and collecting recyclables. However, the descent into homelessness feels almost inevitable. As if that is not enough, she is pregnant. She and her children live on a park bench one night and under sheets of cardboard on another and whenever there is enough money, they go to a fleabag motel, shelter the three. Eventually, Mariana finds a modest apartment in a South Asian neighborhood and a few more odd jobs for herself and the children. Fortunately, the trio are treated with kindness by Preet (Sarita Choudhury), the woman who manages the building.
The family’s precarious situation demands that Mariana abort her child and this is a painful decision, emotionally (for a devout Catholic) and physically. What might surprise the viewer is the amount of heart in this film. In fact, it is a charming and sincere bond among its three leads that propels the film. They have talent, ingenuity, courage and dignity. The family learned to smile through the tears, and as they dealt with heartache. Their story was not unique. Thousands of immigrant mothers, for hundreds of years, have endured problems when trying adapt to their new immigration in the USA. Mothers overcome the problems in order to build the foundation for a better life for their children.
In the movie’s postscript, we learn that the real Mariana, Gabriel and Andrea succeeded in building better lives for themselves. Perhaps this helps explains why the film at times pulls its punches. However, the reality is that, unlike Mariana and her children, the vast majority of immigrants in America never escape poverty.
Directors Mendoza and LaMorte focus on the individual qualities of their protagonists, including the weaknesses of figures such as Antonio, Mariana’s husband—who is also a victim of the social circumstances. Overall, the film looks at the lives of the poor and disenfranchised, and in the process, touches upon the human cost of the government’s cruel vendetta against immigrants.
“Entre Nos” only suggests the brutal rigors of the immigrant experience but it’s good to be reminded that striving newcomers have long strengthened this country.