By Jade Salazar
When filmmakers and partners, Dominique Cardona and Laurie Colbert, began to notice an influx of what seemed to be lesbian nannies popping up in their Toronto neighborhood, they quickly became intrigued. After asking around, they learned that the employers actually preferred lesbians because they did not bring men back to their homes. Being directors of films like, “Thank God I’m a Lesbian” and a favorite of any women’s studies course, “My Feminism”, they were understandably fascinated by this phenomenon and the stories of these women and decided to turn the idea into a film.
“Margarita” follows the lives of a Toronto family and their illegal nanny. As the family falls on hard financial times, they decide to let the nanny of their now teenage daughter go. Upon waking up and realizing they no longer had fresh morning smoothies and had to do their own laundry and raise their own daughter, they quickly realized that Margarita played a much bigger role in their lives than they had been giving her credit for. Though the main character is a lesbian, the Canadian directors found it important to not make that a major plot point.
“I’m not really interested in a coming out story. For us, we’re completely out lesbians and it’s just not a subject we’re particularly interested in.” says Colbert. “We wanted it to be matter of fact.”
Nicola Correia Damude, who plays the part of Margarita, went on to explain, “We need more protagonists and lead LGBT characters where it’s not an issue. Where we’re telling people’s stories but we’re not constantly differentiating. It’s the same with race as well. It’s always a Black film or Latino film or gay film. I think we’ll have really gotten somewhere when we start writing stories about people and that’s not the focus. When an LGBT character can play any lead, when a person of color or any other ethnicity can play any lead and not have it be a focus. In Margarita, it’s not an issue and everyone accepts who she is. It’s just a story about her life and her relationships and I loved that.”
The story touches on Margarita’s personal life and relationship with commitment-phobe girlfriend, Jane while also delving into important social issues like immigration, health care and labor rights. The story itself really spoke to Damude who grew up surrounded by similar experiences.
“Margarita’s story and my mother’s story are very similar. My mother immigrated to the States from Guyana when she was a teenager and was actually a nanny for an affluent family in San Francisco, says Damude. “In my mother’s case, she loved the family she worked with and is still in touch with them now. It can be a really beautiful relationship but I also know a lot of people who are taken advantage of and that’s something to be aware of in our culture.”
On top of the stories of immigration, it was important for the directors to also show the family’s point of view as well. Since the family saw Margarita as family, they seemed to miss the fact that she was working almost 7 days a week and getting paid below minimum wage. The directors wanted to show that even good people can unknowingly do bad things.
“We wanted sort of a post-hippy, do-gooder couple,” says Colbert. “For instance, the mom was able to go out there and do all of this great work with the AIDS clinic, but she has someone that she’s mistreating at home.”
“It’s important that we regulate and don’t allow this kind of abuse to happen. The kinds of stories where because someone is illegal, there’s no voice. We need to find a way to approach this topic with a bit more openness and start asking some important questions about how we deal with them,” adds Damude.
Though the film was made on a budget, most of which was filmed in Cardona and Colbert’s home and their surrounding neighborhood, the cast is what really seems to stick out. While watching the film you can find yourself almost blown away by how perfectly Damude fits into the role of the seemingly omniscient and stoic Margarita. With the idea for the film already in the works, Cardona and Colbert saw Damude in a play and immediately began working the entire film around her. After quietly following her work for years, they finally approached.
“It really was one of those incredible experiences. That just doesn’t happen. It was one of those dreamy moments that are hard to believe, that these two people had invested so much in me without ever meeting me,” says Damude. “There’s a level of confidence in that. They followed my work and knew my work and trusted my ability.”
Watch Damude as “Margarita” and the rest of the cast as they tackle these important issues and also look out for a new feature film from the directors filming next summer. “Margarita” is now available on DVD through Wolfe Video.