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Elisa y Marcela
by Becky Tan

Isabel Oixet, Spain

Elisa (Natalia de Molina) and Marcela (Greta Fernández) have been in love with each other since high school in Galicia, Spain. Naturally, their families have marriage expectations for them – with male partners, but they brush off men as undesirable nuisances. Later they go off to boarding school and then begin their own careers – both as teachers. Some years later they meet again and confirm a love which never died. They decide to stay together, which raises eyebrows in conservative Catholic Spain at the beginning of the 20th century. Neighbors are suspicious, as is the priest at the local church. People begin throwing stones at Elisa. Elisa decides to “become” a man. She disappears for a few days and comes back wearing a suit, her hair cut short. They announce their plans to get married and move, perhaps, to Argentina.

 The film excellently presents a story which is now quite contemporary. Perhaps we never really considered what homosexuals had to suffer a century ago. Besides the love story, there are scenes with nuns in the convent, which is managed by Elisa’s aunt. They have a problem in Portugal, which ends in an arrest, but which prison is appropriate for a transsexual? There is a new-born baby girl, Ana. The governor and his wife unexpectedly provide support.   

Isabel Oixet based this story, filmed in black and white, on the true story of Elisa Sanchez Loriga and Marcela Gracia Ibeas who married in the church of San Jorge in A Corulía, Spain on June 8, 1901. After gathering information about the couple, she wrote her script ten years ago. It took a decade of talking to financiers, who were not so interested in a black and white film about two women who married long ago.  And, as Oixet says in an interview, “Then came Netflix and that was the solution.” She said she had never before in her career as author and director been treated with such respect. “They accepted all of my decisions.” Elisa y Marcela will screen in Spanish cinemas in September. So far no date has been confirmed for Germany. Same sex marriages are legal in 25 countries. In all other countries, there are different levels of acceptance with several making it punishable by death.