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Through Tuesday, January 29


Chela and Chiquita have been partners for decades, lifelong members of Paraguay’s moneyed elite - until the money runs out. Now they spend their days selling their furniture, glassware, and silver to whoever will make them an offer. When Chiquita, the more garrulous and resilient of the two women, is sent to prison, Chela has to cope with loneliness and incipient poverty. Then a new option develops. The movie is anchored by two extraordinary, magnetic performances (Ana Brun as Chela won the Best Actress prize in Berlin) that suggest the untold inner resources of its principal characters. The director credits Rainer Werner Fassbinder’s THE BITTER TEARS OF PETRA VON KANT as an important influence, describing THE HEIRESSES as “a coming-of-age film for a 60-year-old woman.”

Presented with support from the R.G. Rifkind Foundation Endowment for Queer Cinema




“Critic’s Pick. Almost subliminally alerts you to complexities of sexuality and status that many films would prefer to simplify…A vivid and affecting character study, anchored in Brun’s remarkably vivid and nuanced performance… The possibility that (Chela’s infatuation) might be reciprocated gives THE HEIRESSES a jolt of erotic possibility and emotional risk… Its clear-sighted sensitivity makes it a satisfying (movie).”
– A.O. Scott, The New York Times

“4 out of 4 STARS. Nothing less than extraordinary. The shifting stratification of class and rank in THE HEIRESSES is one of its many fascinations. Brun won Best Actress at Berlin last year for her performance as Chela. It is - astonishingly - her first film credit. A remarkable performance.”
– Sheila O’Malley,

“This is very much a woman-centered film. Men are largely peripheral presences. Brun (who plays Chela) brilliantly conveys the disorientation of a woman who has always relied on others to service her needs and whims.”
– Maria Delgado, Sight + Sound

“This excellent debut movie from writer-director Marcelo Martinessi, an award-winner at this year’s Berlin film festival, is a secret love story set among the complacent wealthy gerontocracy of [Paraguay’s] capital, Asunción… The stars of the movie are two wealthy women, the heiresses Chela and Chiquita, superbly played by Paraguayan stage actors Ana Brun and Margarita Irun, who almost incredibly are making their screen debut… Martinessi shrewdly combines subtlety, melancholy, satirical observation and candour about sex.”
– Peter Bradshaw, The Guardian

“(This) finely crafted, beautifully realized debut by Marcelo Martinessi feels so organic and personal. A femme-centric study of two older women in a relationship for decades who’ve fallen on financial hard times, the film exquisitely balances character study with shrewd commentary on the precarious hierarchy of class distinctions, the turbulent persistence of sexual desire and the lingering privileges of Paraguay’s elite. Using…an extraordinarily canny understanding of character, the director-writer achieves a heightened degree of insight within the confines of a stripped-down production… Brun is magnetic in the way she transmits fleeting sensations silently using large eyes that convey fear, hurt, and abashed hopefulness; her first visit to Chiquita in jail could be used in acting classes to demonstrate the power of the glance, as Chela is confronted by the cacophony of boisterous prisoners and their visitors in the barred courtyard... Irún is equally fine as her more firmly grounded better half, far more equipped to handle life’s knocks. Not to be left out of this praise are Ivanova’s confident sensuality as Angy, and Martins as the deliriously selfish neighbor whose every line is designed as a sting. With barely a male even among the extras, Martinessi reproduces a complex female world that in its single-sex isolation speaks to the decades of harsh patriarchal dictatorship still infecting Paraguayan society on all strata.” 
– Jay Weissberg, Variety

– Gary Kramer, Gay City News

“The personal and political are inextricably linked in THE HEIRESSES, a subtle, considered tale of a lesbian couple facing the consequences of economic ruin. Recalls Fassbinder’s THE BITTER TEARS OF PETRA VON KANT. (The film) evokes and expresses regret, desire and optimism, with emotions running deep within its characters in nuanced fashion.”
– Lou Thomas, Sight + Sound

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