La Ausencia

by Jorge Sistos Moreno

Next Step 2022


Feature Film

La Ausencia also revolves around women’s empowerment. Set in 18th century Mexico, it is the portrayal of Elena, a young married woman, and her struggle against syphilis that she contracted from her husband, who has since left. She manages to contain the spread of the disease thanks to her maid Teresa’s precious help as a native healer. When her husband comes home without notice, Elena must face patriarchal violence and religious inquisition in a society that sees her as a witch. 

The Absence (Ausencia) of the title refers more to what is invisible or hidden, than that of a husband. The illness, hidden at first, which seeps into the body; the primitive, native heritage crushed by catholic colonialism; a woman’s might stifled by men. To expose this subdued power, Jorge uses all the potential of genre to blend the romanticism of a period piece with the acute political stance of a feminist and postcolonialist address. His work becomes a medium for syncretism, much like the Virgin de Guadalupe, whom Elena preys to throughout the film: a figure that is mixed, impure, and all the more fierce for it.