Ludi (Shein Mompremier) is utterly exhausted. She works countless hours as a nurse, scraping away all the money she can to send back to her family in Haiti. Ludi lives in the Little Haiti neighborhood of Miami and while her community reminds her of home, her constant struggle reminds her that pursuing the American dream is a relentless uphill climb. When a coworker gives her insight on a new opportunity to make some easy cash, she sets out to take the night shift at the home of George (Alan Myles Heyman), an elderly man too proud to receive help. With George, Ludi faces her greatest challenge yet.
Directed by Haitian-American filmmaker Edson Jean and co-written by Joshua Jean-Baptiste, Ludi is a poignant drama that reveals the pain and vulnerability that comes with the immigrant experience. Shein Mompremier’s moving portrayal of Ludi exemplifies what it means to be a hard-working immigrant woman in America. The film lingers on the scenes between Ludi and George, who have an all out battle, and Heyman’s authentic performance gives viewers insight on the plight of the elderly.
Ludi premiered at the virtual 2021 SXSW Film Festival.
En el Séptimo Día (On the Seventh Day) tells the story of José (Fernando Cardona) a Mexican immigrant working and living in Sunset Park, Brooklyn. He lives in an overcrowded apartment with his friends. Every day they work at a local restaurant, washing dishes, delivering food and bussing tables. Others sell cotton candy on the street, work construction jobs, etc. On the seventh day, Sunday, they’re free to do what they love the most: play soccer. The story follows José and his friends during one week which starts with a semi-final tournament and ends with the much anticipated final game. The problem is José’s boss, who considers him the most valued employee among the immigrant workers at the restaurant, needs him to work on Sunday for a private event. But this means José, who is also the most valued player on his soccer team, will have to miss the game. With each new day we are exposed to aspects of José’s life including his coworkers, his friends, the blue collar workers he meets on his delivery route as well as the pregnant wife waiting for him in Mexico. In the end, José has to chose between the work that feeds him and the joy that sustains him.
“I don’t see any other way. Either we get slaughtered or I get fired.” – José
En el Séptimo Día is a poignant drama about an underrepresented group of individuals who are an important part of the fabric of American society. This quiet film is about finding small joys in a life filled with endless work. You just don’t see stories about Hispanic immigrants. Perhaps first and second generation Latino Americans but not immigrants who are starting a new life in America. And in a time where ICE reigns and our nation is plagued with fear mongering, a humane story about Mexican immigrants adds some empathy and understanding where it was lacking before.
The film was written, produced and directed by Jim McKay, best known for his stories about average folks including Girls Town (1996), Our Song (2000) and Everyday People (2004). According to an interview on the Cinema Guild website, McKay’s inspiration for the film came from a variety of sources including his own work on Our Song and Everyday People, his wife’s documentary La Boda, and his own experience working in a restaurant alongside Mexician immigrant workers from the Yucatan. The biggest source was Mexican New York by Robert Smith, a book profiling a community of immigrants from Puebla, Mexico who had settled in Sunset Park, Brooklyn.
The majority of the cast members, including the star Fernando Cardona, are non-actors. McKay said, “the film is about Mexican immigrants and I was determined to make it with Mexican immigrants.” He sought out not only Mexicans but ones based in Sunset Park where the story takes place. However in the interview McKay makes it clear that the actors are playing characters and not themselves. The film was shot over 19 days in June and July of 2016 in Sunset Park, Park Slope and Gowanus in Brooklyn, NY. A few scenes were shot on a rainy day on October. McKay injects as much realism in his film which watches like a hybrid feature film/documentary.
The movie is primarily in Spanish with several conversations in English. It adds authenticity to the story. McKay and his team did a great job casting the variety of players especially Fernando Cardona who delivers a fine performance and is just captivating to watch on screen. I fell in love with this movie and its characters and was rooting on for José. I particularly enjoyed one scene when José is waiting outside a building where he’s going to make a delivery. He meets a blue collar worker who speaks Spanish and they chat about their mutual love for soccer. It’s a brilliant moment when commonality brings together two people from seemingly very different worlds.
En el Séptimo Día stole my heart. This is one you won’t want to miss.
En el Séptimo Día is showing in theaters across the country through August and September. Visit the Cinema Guild website for details.
Stations: Historical Drama Time Travel Destination: early 1950s Ireland and Brooklyn, NY Conductor: John Crowley
I’m the daughter of immigrant parents. My father traveled across the Atlantic from Portugal to Brazil before heading north and settling in the United States. When he married my mom, he brought her from the tropical climes of the Dominican Republic to wintry New England. For both of my parents the adjustment to their new lives must have been difficult. But they had to leave everything and everyone they knew behind to start a new and better life. While their sacrifice was ultimately worth it, they left a big piece of themselves behind.
Based on the novel by Irish writer Colm Tóibín, Brooklyn (2015) tells the familiar story of immigration but through the lens of young woman in the early 1950s. We follow the story of Eilis (Soirse Ronan). She lives with her sister Rose (Fiona Glacott) and mother (Fiona Glascott) and works a thankless job at the local market under the management of the tough-nosed Miss Kelly (Brid Brennan). Her sister arranges with Father Glynn (Hugh Gormley) for Eilis to make the journey to Brooklyn, NY where a room, a job and the chance to go to school for book-keeping awaits her. The adjustment is more difficult than Eilis imagines. Soon she meets Tony Fiorello (Emory Cohen), a young Italian man with an eye for Irish gals. They quickly fall in love and Eilis starts planting roots. When a major event happens back in Ireland and she travels back, she quickly settles back into her old life. Torn between her two homes, which one will Eilis chose?
Brooklyn is a story about what it means to leave your home and make a new one in a strange and far away new world. We see Eilis’s struggles; the long and difficult boat ride over the Atlantic, the crippling homesickness, prejudice, adjusting to a new lifestyle, new people and new work. There is a touching scene when Eilis helps Mrs. Keho (Julie Walters) and Father Glynn feed the poor and homeless of the community. Everyone in that room is Irish and there is a poignant sense of togetherness. One of the men stands up to sign an Irish song in the traditional Gaelic and I couldn’t help but shed a tear. There is a palpable sense of mourning for the lost country.
This film is also a love story. It’s about the inherited love of one’s family and homeland but more deeply it’s about the joy of finding love in a new relationship. Eilis and Tony’s budding romance is so tender and sweet. It made me want to revisit those early days when I was falling in love with my husband. All those feelings are so new, so fresh and so electrified.
Saoirse (pronounced Sur-sha) Ronan is mesmerizing in Brooklyn. She is so enigmatic and has such an inviting face that I couldn’t help but get lost in her beautiful eyes. Ronan reminds me very much of Ingrid Bergman. Both are incredible talented actresses but are also alluring on screen. Ronan is only 23 years old but already has an incredible resume including 3 Academy Award Nominations, including one for Brooklyn and another for her performance in last year’s Lady Bird.
This film has an eclectic mix of familiar faces and many relative unknowns. Fans of Mad Men will spot Jessica Pare who plays Miss Fortini, Eilis’ boss at the Brooklyn department store.
I’d be remiss if I didn’t point out the exquisite detail that went into this period picture. Especially the costumes, oh the costumes. I wanted to steal practically every outfit costume designer Odile Dicks-Mireaux dressed Saoirse Ronan in. The palate is colorful and vibrant. The tones match the different seasons. Ireland and Brooklyn are steeped in rich hues which make the 1950s of both look like veritable dreamlands. It may not be the most realistic but for someone like me who revels in mid-century modern aesthetic, Brooklyn is a feast for the eyes.
I had one small quibble with Brooklyn. I felt like it took too long for us to fully appreciate why Eilis left Ireland for New York. Her situation didn’t seem dire enough for her to give up everything she knew for an opportunity with big unknowns. I wish that had been established a bit more early on in the story.
“One day the sun will come out. You might not even notice straight away it will be that faint. Then you’ll catch yourself thinking about something or someone who has no connection with the past. Someone whose only yours. And you’ll realize, that this is where your life is.”