Eleana Ignazzitto and Liliana Suarez in "Abuela" (2022)
Having spent most of my childhood with my grandparents, I have since carried into adulthood an unbreakable bond, indescribable but unmistakable in the emotions it stirs. The relationship between a child and their grandparent can be a beautiful thing. Precious lessons and memories are passed from generation to generation. Whether it be through a favorite past time, or a particular food dish. Making a family recipe is a powerful way of connecting to your loved ones, as seen in writer-director Rebeca Ortiz’s debut short film “Abuela”. This beautiful short, which premiered at the 2022 Future of Film Showcase (FOFS), feels like a warm hug of a story. “Abuela” tells the story of a young girl named Kathy (played by Eleana Ignazzitto) and her visiting grandmother/Abuela (played by Liliana Suarez); the two initially struggle to connect through different languages, but ultimately find a way to break through barriers. One afternoon, when the grandmother starts making empanadas, the granddaughter switches off the TV in the next room and is drawn toward the kitchen. In one moment, through a traditional family recipe, their relationship begins to blossom.
The film shows a sweet glimpse into family dynamics and the dichotomy that dissolves between both characters by sharing an activity together. Resonating themes of generational bonding and tradition are wrapped into a few short minutes. Ortiz finds strength in simplicity; with a brief runtime, one setting, and two main characters, “Abuela” is a memory in the making. In real-time, as the young girl helps her grandmother make empanadas, Ortiz engages with the power of generational bonding. She sits with the idea that the young girl will carry this memory with her when she grows up, and that the grandmother has made a mark on the younger generation. The richness of perspective and detail is impressive. Ortiz brings a marvelous voice to this story, sure to resonate as a memorable depiction of generational relationships. Well-acted and beautifully shot, “Abuela” is a heartfelt directorial debut filled with the promise of a great filmmaker.