Page 2 September 17, 2020
Lingua Franca Makes History
As the First Film Directed By and
Starring A Trans Woman of Color
Ashley DeFrancesco for cinemacy.com
2020 has been a year of firsts: a global
pandemic, masks as a necessity, education
and jobs moving online. But the monumental
achievement is the landmark film, Lingua
Franca, making history as the first film directed
by and starring an openly trans woman of
color, the brilliant Isabel Sandoval. Sandoval’s
voice as the screenwriter, lead actor, editor,
and co-producer is a gift. She shares her experience
and struggles with the audience, and
her character has depth and intimacy never
before seen due to the lack of representation
historically for transgender voices.
The film is set in our current political
world with 45’s fear-mongering hostility
against immigration and gender identity
impending and looming. Olivia (Isabel Sandoval)
is an undocumented transgender
Filipina woman working as a caretaker to
an elderly Russian-American, Olga (Lynn
Cohen), in Brooklyn’s Brighton Beach. The
only way she can rid the constant fear of
ICE raids and anti-immigration news is marriage
and leaving love out of the equation.
The constant panic and fear tap into the
migrant experience, trying to make a life
in a country whose citizens are spoon-fed
rhetoric that immigrants are the enemy.
When Olga’s grandson Alex (Eamon Farren)
comes back home after his time in rehab,
he lives with Olga and becomes fascinated
“Lingua Franca” means a language that
is adopted as a common language between
speakers whose native languages are different.
Nothing could better describe the relationship
between Olivia and Alex. In the beginning,
their interactions are focused on Alex learning
Olga’s routine and how to care for her, and
grows into a genuine interest in Olivia and her
culture. As they become more intimate, they
find their language but the secrets between
them only continue to grow.
Lingua Franca gives its audience a mirror
with which to evaluate their role in transphobia
and anti-immigration reform. Isabel Sandoval
shows us the heartbreak and living terror immigrant
trans women experience in America
daily. She has made a film with cultural currency
and a story that needs to be seen by all.
Distributed by ARRAY Releasing, Lingua
Franca is now streaming on Netflix. •
Lingua Franca, courtesy ARRAY Releasing.
Your Neighborhood Therapist
Dear Neighborhood Therapist,
Sometimes it feels like my household is
falling apart. We have three children who are
ages 10, 12 and 15, and it feels like they are
fighting all the time, both with each other
and with my wife and me. I understand that
conflict is inevitable, but it feels like it’s all
the time lately, and we cannot get it to stop
no matter what we try. Everyone seems to
be weathering Covid-19 pretty well, we all
have friends, and our marital relationship is
great. Any idea of how to reduce the tension?
– Conflicted, El Segundo
Any household will be full of complex,
dynamic relationships, and trying to resolve
every issue is like playing family whack-amole.
It’s exhausting, futile, and problems
will just pop up again more often than not.
Instead of trying to resolve each individual
conflict, problem or tension, try thinking
about it in a different way: Who holds power
in a given relationship, and how do they use
Most of us don’t mind too much if our
hand gets slapped away from the cookie jar
when it shouldn’t have been there in the first
place. But very few people are okay with
feeling they are treated unfairly. I have never
come across a thriving relationship where one
person consistently uses their power unfairly
or blatantly to their own benefit.
We don’t like to talk about power differences
in relationships, but they are real.
One of you is almost certainly going to
have more power than the other. The most
obvious case is with parents having power
over their children, but older siblings usually
have power over younger siblings, and power
differences are real in couples, too.
Most of us have been in the position of
being subject to power that seems - or simply
is - unfair. Maybe it was a parent who
grounded you for no reason. Maybe it was
a promotion you deserved and didn’t get.
Maybe it was being pulled over because of
the color of your skin. No matter what the
circumstances, the feeling of powerlessness
in the face of unfairness - let me put it as
mildly as I can - stinks. And the more unfair
it seems, the more it stinks.
Your children are around the age where they
begin to see that their parents, their school,
their social lives, and their environment are
not perfect, and this awareness makes being
subject to power even more frustrating. They
may get that stinking feeling a lot.
So what happens if you’re the one with the
power? Does it carry certain responsibilities?
How will you choose to use it? When you’re
sure you’re right, how important is it to win
an argument or teach a lesson?
See Therapist, page 5
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