Linares had originally conceived of Ramona as a fictional drama about a pregnant teenager, who flees a miserable home to become an actress and, more specifically, dreams of getting cast on her favorite telenovela. While writing the screenplay alongside co-writer Diego Cepeda, Linares interviewed several pregnant teenage girls, and the project—doubly upended by the pandemic— transformed into an ornate, curiously oblique excavation of art and representation.
The film had its US premiere at the documentary festival True/False, where in fact, such broad (and rather fashionable) matters have long occupied nonfiction. Admittedly, that landscape does not quite adequately account for the ambitious questions Ramona proposes, or even the sophisticated architecture Linares has designed to scaffold these somewhat unwieldy themes. If contemporary nonfiction—so long captive to pretensions of transparency—has often disguised filmmakers’ more cynical impulses in the name of self-flagellating interrogation of their suitability to tell certain stories, Linares, alternatively, establishes a signature. She seems instinctively drawn to the composition of a film (if not, more aptly, its dismantling); marking moments of decision, drawing attention to the way she furnishes a scene or, indeed, her own actors for a sequence. Linares’s two feature films to date do not merely test the bounds of reality and fiction, but leave audiences immured in cinema’s artifice.
Her previous film and feature debut It Runs in the Family (2022), details the life of her cousin Oscar Torres, a queer director and activist, whose memory had been actively occluded by their family. Like Ramona, It Runs In the Family also integrates performance, namely re-enactments and rehearsals, in an artful deconstruction of filmmaking, nimbly layered with self-inspection. In the film, Linares primarily concerns herself with unearthing a fractured and disavowed history: pouring over books, photographs, home videos, and archival footage to restore what has been so thoroughly eradicated from family lore. It’s a deeply personal story, in which she becomes a central performer, as her ancestor invites multiple, generative parallels—personal and professional—as she closes the distance between her artistry and his.
In Ramona, she stages an altogether different portrait of family, one helplessly shaped by class and societal roles, and thus, perhaps the natural provenance of theatrical fixations. In fact, the film opens on a soundstage, the camera sweeping past the bright pink walls of a salon set before landing finally on the lushly painted, bucolic scene of a verdant pasture, resplendent with grassy knolls and sumptuous clouds. Pastels—yellows, pinks, muted blues—saturate the film and surely prefigure its unfolding preoccupations: girlhood and the various intrusions upon it.