Director Maria Mealla’s “La Macana” is an Homage to Dads 

Director Maria Mealla is bringing their short La Macana to the Cinequest Film & Creativity Festival this August. The film follows recently divorced parents Carmen and Franco, who work together to support their daughter, Sol, as she experiences getting her period for the first time.

In an instant, flashbacks hit hard to our childhood and personal experiences with our first period. The horror. The pain! The subtle embarrassment! We all felt for you, Sol! 

The real star and heart of the film goes to Franco’s response to Sol’s big news. As you’ll see in the short film and Maria’s interview responses below, La Macana is an homage to dads everywhere who support their children no matter how “awkward” it is or isn’t! 

Check out our interview with Maria Mealla below, and once you’re hooked (like we were!), scroll down to see where you can catch La Macana during the Cinequest Film Festival. 

What inspired you to make this short film? 

The film is pretty autobiographical! It is based on my personal experience with my first period when my parents got divorced. I found myself retelling the story and realized that it had the potential for a quick, tender comedy when I was looking for something simple to make that could be executed safely during the pandemic. We made this with a team of about 15 people over two production days in Oakland. 

What happens with Sol in La Macana is incredibly relatable on all levels! (Having someone get everything possible to make you feel better, LOL) Why was it essential for you to create and tell this message now?

I wanted to make a movie for the dads. When it comes to periods, dads don’t get enough credit, and many good ones out there put in the work to show up for their daughters through a phase that they are generally iced out of. This one’s for the dads who show up and do the work.

When working with the family of 3 featured in the film, how did you prepare your cast for their characters and the scenarios they faced? 

We only had a little rehearsal time because we filmed this during the pandemic. I got the cast all together the day before, so we all wanted to ensure we were extremely tight and ready to make the most out of the time together in person, which is when you can hone in on the nuances of a performance and chemistry. To do this, we did a lot of zooming, 1-1 with each of my actors. While we had a few Zoom rehearsals, we spent most of our time talking through the scenarios and discovering where the reactions their characters had were coming from. 

How different was what you envisioned the film like, and how did it eventually turn out?

It was pretty darn close! My actors are incredibly gifted performers, and they were able to bring the characters to life seamlessly. 

Every one of my creative department heads is a master of their craft and a pleasure to work with. Still, for this one, I have to call out Melanie Leandro, the production designer, and Anna Rottke, the project editor. Melanie will pick up on every hint and detail in the script and use it to build the worlds in which these characters live. Anna is my storytelling soulmate. She doesn’t speak Spanish, and with only dialogue translations on paper to guide her, she could still pick the best performances and breathe comedic timing into this piece with the pace and beats she built into the edit. They both make all my dreams come true. 

Can you describe your feeling when audiences finish viewing your work on a big screen? What’s that like for you? 

Heart is beating through my chest with joy. Might grind my teeth to sand with excitement. Absolute bliss.  

Do you have any advice for young filmmakers who want their films in festivals like Cinequest?

Be loud about your film, respect people’s time, and don’t take anything personally. In many ways, submitting your film to festivals is less like submitting a school project and more like campaigning for office. You gotta be your film’s biggest fan, be unabashed about self-promotion, and do everything you can to ensure the right eyes see it. But you must also know how to read the room and respect people’s time. 

Curating a program is an art in and of itself and incredibly grueling work. A good programmer puts thought and time into shorts blocks. Sometimes your film doesn’t work because it’s not a good fit for the block. Not because someone didn’t like it.  There is an audience for your film out there, and they will eventually find it. 💫

La Macana precedes the feature film Minnesota Mean during Cinequest Summer Festival on Saturday, August 26, or Tuesday, August 29. Head to Cinequest’s website to purchase tickets: HERE.

This interview has been edited for length and clarity.

August 17, 2023

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