María Novaro

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border, gender, identity, metropolises
Film (feature film)
America, Central
Mexico City
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May 26, 2003
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María Novaro
María Novaro By courtesy of "Más de cien años de cine mexicano"


Sensitive portraits of women

Born in Mexico City in 1951 Maria Novaro belongs to the generation of female film-makers who managed to make their mark in Mexico in the 80s. Starting with short films, she has focused on the self-assertion of women in Mexican society and has taken women´s liberation as her main theme. The scripts have been written by her alone or together with her sister Beatriz Novaro.
Born in Mexico City; Maria Novaro belongs to the generation of women who in the 80s were finally able to make their mark in Mexican film-making. Till then, as the profession was fenced off by sexism and syndicalism, only two women had done so: Matilde Landeta in the 40s and Marcela Fernández Violante since the 70s. From her first short films on, Maria Novaro has remained concerned with the self-assertion of women in Mexican society and has made the theme of emancipation her main one. Hence she also writes her own film-scripts and did so firstly with her sister Beatriz Novaro.

For a decade she studied film-making in its various aspects then at the end of the 80s made her first full-length feature film ´Lola´, which was her immediate breakthrough. The person Lola is a young street-merchant in search of her place between man, child and job - a woman whose man goes astray in Los Angeles. Their relationship was unhappy anyway, and other, later relationships are also unsatisfactory. Lola neglects her seven-year old daughter, and her life goes from bad to worse. Lola is the opposite of the strong mothers, willing to make sacrifices, who in traditional Mexican films triumph and die. The film realistically shows a woman who has a child too early, before coming to terms with herself.

Maria Novaro, who herself has three daughters, does not explore society for the roots of Lola´s difficulties but points to personal choice. Society appears in the background, in parts of Mexico City ruined by an earthquake symbolising the state of society. The film unfolds gradually with quietness and sensitivity, without the drama of sex and violence common in Mexican films.

With ´Danzón´ two years later, Maria Novaro showed once more her ability to portray sensitively a woman´s fate, this time within the context of popular culture. The Danzón is a classic Latin American dance, current in Mexico for over a hundred years. Once more the protagonist is a young woman with a child. Her boyfriend, who is also her dancing partner, deserts her, but in need of him for dancing at weekends, she tries to trace him. The tale is told in dance-rhythm. The tempo speeds up and slows down in this tale of a telephone-operator with modest demands and the one hope of finding fulfilment in life through dancing.

In this film, too, the urban landscape - in this case of Vera Cruz - plays an important role, especially its denizens. The dance-enthusiast meets them with openness and is treated with indifference or antagonism. But Maria Novaro is able to find liveliness in even this shabby and frustrating milieu, thanks to the Danzón, which renews folk´s zest and zeal.

For her third feature film ´El jardin del Edén´ (The Garden of Eden, 1994), Maria Novaro chose quite a different setting - Tijuana on the border to the USA, where entry to the ´promised land´ is closed by a steel wall 20 km long. Here a group of individuals with various dreams meet. Serena has just lost her husband and is now having to manage on her own with her three children, including the rebellious Julián, who finds understanding only from his aunt, this ´tia Juana´ being the pragmatic essence of Tijuana. Jane, a naive US American, is looking for her friend Elizabeth, a young chicana; and her brother Frank is a writer who, being unable to write, is studying the language of whales. All three are looking for a meaning in life - for a garden of Eden - and are unable to sense that there is no garden of Eden apart from the one in which they are already dwelling.

Maria Novaro´s films are about quests, like the most recent of them, symbolically entitled ´Sin dejar huell“a´ (Without leaving a Trace, 2000). It is the fruit of a deep personal crisis affecting the director. Aurelia is the single mother of two children, whom she wishes to save from a fate like her own. As a seamstress in Ciudad Járez, she is the lowest of the low. She gets a lift in a van driven by a man belonging to the drug-Mafia and meets underway the attractive Ana, a specialist in illegal trade in pre-Columbian antiquities. Ana is on the run from a police-sergeant yearning for the antiquities but even more so for Ana.

This constellation is unusual for Maria Novalo and leads to unusual turbulence and a long flight, making the film into a road movie showing Mexico´s fascination. The two dissimilar women have time to get to know and to understand each other and, in spite of deception, to become friends. Again and again they discover that only a life lived according to one´s bent is worth the bother.
Author: Peter B. Schumann


María Novaro was born on 11th September 1951 in Mexico City. From 1971 to 1977 she studied sociology at the Autonomous University of Mexico (UNAM) and belonged from 1979 to 1981 to the first Mexican film collective of women: Cine-Mujer. From 1980 to 1985 she studied at CUEC, the UNAM Film College, where she directed her first short films ´Conmigo la pasarás muy bien´ and ´7 a.m.´ (both in 1982), ´Querida Carmen´ (1983), ´Una isla rodeada de agua´ (Ariel for the best Mexican short film, 1984) and ´Pervertida´ (1985). In 1988 she directed the episode ´Azul celeste´ for the film ´Historias de ciudad´. This was the start of her professional work, at first with further short films: ´Otoñal´ (1992) and ´Santa: Cuando comenzamos a hablar´ (1998, an episode of ´Enredando sombras´). In her first feature films ´Lola´ (1989) and ´Danzón´ (1991) she proved herself to be one of Mexico´s most promising up and coming directors.

At the International Festival of New Latin American Films in Havana, ´Lola´ won the Coral for the best feature-film debut and in Mexico the Ariel for the best first film. It also won many further prizes. ´Danzón´ won several awards, including one for the best main role (María Rojo). The next feature film ´El jardín del Edén´ (1993) won prizes in Havana and Cartagena. ´Sin dejar huella´ (2000), Maria Novaro´s most recent feature film, is her most daring so far, ´a single adventure, always about to break off“, as she herself stresses.


Sin dejar huella

Film / TV,

El jardín del Edén

Film / TV,


Film / TV,


Film / TV,

Una isla rodeada de agua

Film / TV,


This artist took part in the following project(s) organized/funded by the partner institutions.

The Mexico-festival in Berlin

(15 September 02 - 01 December 02)


Information about "Sin dejar huella" and "Danzòn"

Information in Spanish about the filmography and the films "Sin dejar huella" and "Danzòn"