MSU Cinema International presents Spanish, Dominican Republican Drama "Miriam Lies" This Week
Murray State University's Cinema International program continues its Fall 2023 season with two screenings of the Spanish and Dominican Republican 2018 drama Miriam Lies this weekend. Tracy Ross speaks to program director Dr. Thérèse St. Paul and MSU Spanish professor Dr. Ben Post ahead of the screenings.
From the MSU Cinema International website:
"Miriam Lies is a refreshing film from the Dominican Republic. The story centers on a quinceañera celebration and shows how racial prejudices affect a teenage girl's choices. This powerful movie shoots a sharp yet subtle criticism at the heart and mind of Caribbean society."
Post begins by explaining the importance of the event around which the film centers: a young girl's quinceañera. "It's a big inflection post," he explains. "It's got a lot of weight riding on it, especially if you are from a family that has class aspirations and feels pressure to spend more money than you're comfortable with. In many ways, the fiesta de quince you see in the film looks a lot more like a wedding than a 15-year-old girl's birthday party. The traditional fiesta de quince has some of those elements, but here, it's relatively opulent and involves lots of special things, like a choreographed dance, special dresses, and all kinds of other things as well."
The racial prejudice element of the film, Post says, begins when Miriam chooses to hide the identity of a man she's been speaking to online from her mother because of his possible racial identity. And while Post hesitated to equate this struggle with the entire Dominican Republic culture, he says, "It's definitely an issue within that society, and there are two reasons connected to this."
"In the U.S., the dominant paradigm is separate boxes — you belong in Box A, or you belong in Box B," Post says. "People who don't seem to fit into Box A or Box B, maybe you create a biracial box, whereas in the Caribbean, as Dr. St. Paul mentioned, there's a lot more mixture of people whose ancestors come from different continents. So, it's a lot harder to maintain that idea of Box A or Box B. Instead, the dominant paradigm tends to be a continuum with every possible combination at some point in that continuum — absolute whiteness on one end, absolute blackness on the other end."
"In the Caribbean, [racism] tends to be more colorism," he continues. "That is, if a certain color is undesirable, then you want to be more on the other end of the spectrum. That allows someone in the middle who's mixed to still experience racial prejudice towards those that are darker than they are and have a sense of identification with those that are lighter than they are." Post says that the main character, Miriam, finds herself in the middle of this continuum with a lighter-skinned mother and a darker-skinned father.
Though it is a teenage coming-of-age story in some ways, Post says that audiences of all ages could appreciate the film. "I certainly think that any teenager of whatever gender would sympathize with and really get inside the mind of Miriam as she's thinking about this very high-stress moment in her life. The film was written and directed by a woman, but it was also co-written and co-directed by her partner. The two of them working together gives us a stereoscopic psychological vision of this protagonist that I think makes it really real, sympathetic — even when she's doing bad things. As the movie puts it, she's lying about something, and viewers have to decide whether her lies are understandable or whether they're causing damage to other people."
MSU Cinema International presents Miriam Lies on Thursday, September 7, and Saturday, September 9, at 7:30 p.m. in Faculty Hall Room 208. A discussion of the film will follow. Both the screenings and discussions are free and open to the public. For more information on the Cinema International program, including upcoming films and how to donate, visit its website.