Gloria La Morte
“Entre Nos” isn’t just a powerful drama about a recent emigrant from Colombia struggling to survive in New York City after her husband abandons them. It’s also based on the true story of Paola Mendoza, who stars in the film and partnered with Gloria La Morte to write and direct it.
La Morte sat down to discuss the feature film that’s truly from the heart.
Christopher Lloyd: So this is based on the real life experience of Paola?
Gloria La Morte: Paola and I worked in 2006 on a documentary. She was co-director and I was the co-editor. When we premiered at the Southwest Film Festival, she approached me and said, “You know, Gloria, I have a story I’ve been wanting to tell my whole life. It’s the story of my mother when she came to the U.S.” When she told me this story, I was floored. I knew that I wanted to be a part of it. And I was grateful that she trusted me artistically.
We started writing the story about three and a half years ago; it took us two years to write the story. When we were writing it, our focus was to write the good story. Then our script at the script package won an award, it was through the IFP. We said, “Oh my God, we’ve got to make this movie!”
She told her mother we were in the middle of casting, and her mother said, “I’ll help you with is going to play me: It’s going to be you!” So it was at her mother’s request. And naturally, I think it was the right choice.
CL: Did you guys shoot in New York?
GLM: We shot in New York City, in the community of Queens. Now Queens is really I think the hub to the world. More languages are spoken per square mile in Queens than anywhere in the world. It’s a place where people come to set roots, from all over the world.
We were both born in Colombia, and the family in this story is Colombian. There’s a very large Colombian community in Queens, in Jackson Heights. Without that community we couldn’t have done the film. Because we were very low-budget. They would let us use the front of their restaurant while they were serving dinner in the back. People opened up their homes, their businesses to shoot.
CL: Where did you get financing for the film?
GLM: It was private financing. IndiePix Studios was our main investor. Bob Alexander, who runs IndiePix, is one of our executive producers. He read the script and he believed in it right away. Also the camera package (award) that we won was a three-week camera package. And we also received a grant.
CL: We’ve seen a lot of stories about immigrants coming to America, and they tend to focus on the immigration process — getting to America, legally or illegally. Whereas your story is about this mother who’s already here and trying to survive on her own.
GLM: We identified it as a family story. It’s about a family who is abandoned by the father after arriving in the U.S. The story takes off when he abandons them.
CL: Has Paola ever reconciled with her father?
GLM: She hasn’t been able to reconcile with her father. However, in the writing process we needed to deal with every individual character. And when we dealt with the father, we examined why he did this, how could he do this. You go through all those questions. But it didn’t end up in the movie. We realized that’s not what’s important for our film. What was important was her journey. His departure is just what kicks it off. Why he did it could be another film.
CL: How did you find those two extraordinary child actors, Laura Montana and Sebastian Villada?
GLM: We knew that the film was going to ride and die with the performance of the children. They are onscreen almost as much as Paola. Unfortunately, a lot of kids, if they’re acting in commercials, we couldn’t use that. We needed something very organic and natural. So we had a huge casting call. We must have seen over 400 kids.
We met Laura there. We knew we were onto something when we met her. But we didn’t find the boy. Literally two days before rehearsals, we didn’t have the boy cast.
So we knew July 20th was Colombian Independence Day. And in Queens there is a huge, huge celebration. Thousands of people go there. So Paola and I put on our suntan lotion and went out scouting. We were stopping kids who looked about what we were looking for. He needed to speak Spanish, and more importantly they needed to be able to carry that heavy content. We found Sebastian sitting with his grandmother on the ground having a picnic. And that’s how we found him!