SIFF 2019 Review: ‘Miriam Lies’

Rating: B

Miriam Lies, written and directed by Natalia Cabral and Oriol Estrada, brings us an intriguing look at Dominican Republic society.  I, for one, first think of a poor country that produces an inordinate number of professional baseball players.  Otherwise, I am fairly ignorant about this nation.  In Miriam Lies, we see a societal pattern common throughout Latin America, where those who have managed to sustain their Spanish/European “purity” rule over those of mixed blood, e.g. “people of color.”  This is a central theme in the film.  

Miriam is a gentle-mannered teen about to celebrate her quinceañera with her best-friend Jennifer.  Miriam’s father is black, but she lives with her white working-class mother and family.  It is her mother who has upwardly-mobile intentions and has planned an over-the-top event with Jennifer’s much wealthier mother. Miriam has invited her online friend, whom she has not yet met, to be her date for this 15-year old birthday celebration.  She arranges to meet him in a public place, but when she spots him looking for her, she turns her back: he is black, not what she expected. 

Through subsequent dance lessons and clothing fittings, she tells little white lies to excuse why her date has failed to show—and why she does she reply to his emails. As the day of the big event nears, tensions rise.  Will she admit to her mother that she has no date, or explain to her mom that he is black?  Or will she dare to invite him despite the fact he is not the white youth her mother expects?  

The twist at the end of the film drives home the extent to which societal expectations can undermine natural feelings and desires.  The film carries a strong message without resorting to being heavy-handed. 

Dulce Rodríguez (Miriam) and Carolina Rohana (Jennifer), in their inaugural film, both play their roles as innocent and until now care-free friends with a refreshing naturalness.  Miriam’s mother Tere, played by Pachy Méndez, is properly annoying in her pushiness to show-off her mixed-race daughter in higher- class white society.  Though the underlying message of the film was serious, this is balanced by the brightness of a Caribbean ambiance.

This movie was reviewed as part of our coverage of the 2019 Seattle International Film Festival (SIFF).

By Karen Samdahl
Related categories: SIFF