Dominique Cardona and Laurie Colbert originally aspired for their Toronto-based film Margarita to be like a lesbian Mary Poppins.
She may not be able to fly, burst into a dance routine, or sing “Supercalifragilisticexpialidocious,” but Margarita is sure to win over hearts.
“It’s really about love and family and people loving and appreciating each other. It’s about people really seeing each other,” says Colbert from her Toronto home, in which Margarita was shot. “We were very inspired by Little Miss Sunshine, but we wanted to make something a little lighter, still with meaning.”
Cardona and Colbert are a trailblazing power couple who started making films together 20 years ago. They made their mark with Thank God I’m a Lesbian (1992), a documentary about lesbian identity featuring Dionne Brand, Nicole Brossard, Sarah Schulman and Julia Creet.
Their first feature film, Finn’s Girl (2007), is a story of abortion issues, love and teenage angst. It had its world premiere at the Créteil International Women’s Film Festival in France and won eight awards, including the Audience Award. It won the Outstanding Emerging Talent Award at Outfest, the Los Angeles Gay and Lesbian Film Festival.
The duo recently returned from France, where Margarita also had its world premiere at the Créteil Festival. It, too, won the Audience Award.
“We’ll never see a better screening,” Colbert says. “People were just happy. People came back to see it twice.”
The film is the story of Margarita (Nicola Correia Damude), a Mexican live-in nanny.
Margarita works for a yuppie Toronto couple, Ben (Patrick McKenna) and Gail (Clair Lautier), looking after their teenaged daughter, Mali (Maya Ritter), and all the family’s housework. What Margarita’s employers, and her law-student love Jane (Christine Horne), don’t know is that she is living and working illegally in Canada.
When money becomes too tight, Ben and Gail decide to let Margarita go.
Colbert anticipates a different reaction to the film in Canada than in France, where viewers were surprised at the compassion in the relationship between Margarita and the family she works for.
“It’s a very Canadian story. A woman who is in a difficult situation,” she says.
“I know friends who have kept their nanny even when the kids have left. It’s not unusual for a certain milieu. They care about the person and have spent the past 20 years together; they end up keeping the nanny. I mean, it’s the bright side of nanny-dom. I know there is a whole other side, but that’s not the film we’re making.”