I had the pleasure of sitting a few seats down from Primavera M. Ruiz, the director of the 2013 documentary Ana Y Yo (Ana and I) at a New York Women in Film & Television member screening.
This autobiographical documentary, originally meant to outline Ruiz’s adopted sisters’ return to Equatorial Guinea, ultimately told a strange and winding tale of a large and broken family. Growing up in Spain, Primavera was raised by Lola and the late Toñin Ruiz. Her mother was heir to a successful rope making company, and an incredibly secretive and fascinating woman.
When Primavera’s baby sister Odile died, Lola somehow set up a makeshift adoption agency in Guinea to adopt two African girls, one that she named Odile (inherently to replace the first), and her sister Magra, a decade later.
After the film, Primavera said that she meant to make a movie that brought her two African sisters together by journeying to Guinea and meeting their biological grandparents, but that particular story is swallowed by the sheer amazement of Lola.
Obviously involved in illegal matters, Lola retrieves all of her savings in the late 1990s and moves her 8 children to an isolated farm that she tells them is in Portugal, but they soon realize is still in fact Spain. She gets a bit of plastic surgery, changes her name to Ana, and dedicates the next few years to training her children. In 2002, they win the world championships for Horse Vaulting. Strange, isn’t it?
This story is full of contradictions. Ana is never affectionate to her children and lies to them about almost everything. Yet, they love her and think of her “like God”. This is a woman with a strange sense of normality, one who changes her identity to go into hiding, then appears on national television as the coach for her family vaulting team.
Primavera told us, after the film ended, that she had not included a lot of the secrets she had unveiled during filming because she feared it was too personal and could be hurtful to her family.
What makes this documentary special is the love that it inhabits. A broken family with constant secrecy and betrayal, is filled with nothing but support and love.
For now, the film is only showing in small film festivals, primarily in Spain. It is incredibly heartwarming and thought provoking, and I implore everyone to track it down.