"Joyride," the many Juanas who live within us
Nicaraguan-American director Edwin Alexis Gómez explores the traumas of our lineages in a luminous road-trip movie in competition at the PBS Short Film Festival.
As you look deeper into your family tree you will see that the branches are so curled up that in many ways they join with the roots. We live our lives with a baggage made of the experiences of others, the traumatic and luminous ones — a sort of collective shadow as a society and a family clan. That is why for some indigenous communities it is the past and not the future that lies ahead, because our world is shaped by the sometimes erratic steps of those who have gone before us.
This is one of the powerful messages of Joyride, the short film by Nicaraguan-American writer and filmmaker Edwin Alexis Gomez, which tells the story of the road trip of two young Latinas in the company of their grandmother Juana. Where not only do the granddaughters discover part of their roots through the story told to their grandma but she, in turn, reconciles with her own past.
"When we talk about our lives, we build bridges with others," Gómez told PBS. He grew up in a family of strong women, like his own mother and grandmother, on whom he based the character Juana.
These are migrant women who have experienced violence in their own countries of origin and who face traumas that, as the filmmaker notes, remain with their heirs.
"It is fundamental to remember that the decisions and experiences of my bloodline are alive in my own life. All the beautiful and painful things that happened to my ancestors have brought me to where I am now," he added.
"We are all tied to our history"
Joyride not only explores domestic violence and how it marks those who suffer from it, but also those who have grown up in difficult environments and how returning to those origins can turn traumas into a shining light. It is also a reflection on the necessary dialogue between generations and the importance of the elderly in a society that has turned its back on them.
"We have much to learn from each other and from what we have experienced, especially with all that we are experiencing collectively in this country with the pandemic and the need to make our communities safe for all, but especially for our Black brothers and sisters," said the filmmaker, who notes that "we are all tied to our history."
For Edwin Alexis Gómez, whose work revolves around the beauty and pain of love and life, the roots and his own identity as a queer person, the reason for the journey in his stories is an opportunity for the protagonists to find their place in the world and for others who follow a similar itinerary.
However, it is never a straightforward journey. The path to knowledge and acceptance is often circular, for in order to know where we are going we must first know where we came from, and, as he points out, "the more we can be aware of our thoughts, patterns and coping mechanisms, the more we can continue to integrate and heal our trauma."
"What do we inherit emotionally from our lineage?"
That way, healing the wounds of time is, itself, traveling through it backwards and inwards.
"The time I spent in the shelter brought me into contact with many healing modalities. One of the most intriguing was this concept of time travel to those moments that have caused us a trauma," said Gómez.
Joyride is one of 25 films participating in the ninth annual PBS Digital Short Film Festival, which seeks to increase the visibility of independent directors and provide a showcase for storytelling that addresses family, culture, humanity, environment, race and more.
"What do we inherit emotionally from our lineage," asked the director. The answer — of course, it's not easy — you may be able to find it in this small-format road movie.
The short Joyride is presented by Latino Public Broadcasting.