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The Heiresses

Marcelo Martinessi

It came as no surprise to us that Ana Brun walked away with the Silver Bear for Best Actress at this year’s Berlin Film Festival for her work in The Heiresses.

Middle-aged Chela (Ana Brun) has retreated from the world. Born into wealth, but now mired in debt, she watches, humiliated, through the crack of a nearly-closed door as her heirlooms are pawed by potential buyers. Chela leaves the grubby financial practicalities to her outgoing life partner Chiquita (Margarita Irún). But when Chiquita is sent to prison for debt, Chela is suddenly alone. She starts using her old Daimler to provide a taxi service to wealthy older ladies in the neighbourhood, and in her new role as chauffeur, she meets one of these ladies’ daughters – the young and life-affirming Angy. The encounter lures the rather passive Chela out of her shell and helps her rediscover her own desires.

With the raise of an eyebrow, Brun conveys Chela’s indignation at her changed circumstances and her eventual acceptance of a new life. But The Heiresses is not simply a powerful study of one woman’s journey, it is also a glimpse of life in Paraguay, a country where the worlds of the very wealthy and the economically deprived collide.