Cast: Eamon Farren, Isabel Sandoval, Ivory Aquino, PJ Boudousque
Official Selection, 2019 Venice Days
Official Selection, 2019 BFI London Film Festival
Official Selection, 2019 Busan International Film Festival
Like many Overseas Filipino Workers, Olivia lives with and cares for Olga, an aging Russian woman with dementia. Olga’s small Brighton Beach home is a testament to three generations of immigration, a history that Olga now relies on Olivia to remember. While excelling at her job and earning the trust of her client, Olivia’s future is in doubt. She’s a trans woman, and an undocumented immigrant at that. Olivia pays a man to be her fiancé, biding their time before they can marry and secure her a green card. But can he be trusted? And what about Olivia’s own sexual desires, repressed by necessity, and perhaps by fear of a transphobic world?
Director Isabel Sandoval (Apparition, SDAFF ’12), who also plays Olivia in an electric performance, captures in uncomfortable stillnesses the lurking suspicion of danger around the corner or beyond the frame. Even when Olivia finds a potential partner in Olga’s son Alex, the unspoken presence of cis white male resentment, compounded by his homophobic bros and the precarity of his working-class job, figures as a threat. Teetering tensely on the line between comfort and peril, LINGUA FRANCA captures statelessness not only as a legal condition but an existential one, where one can, in the drop of an ICE raid or the vicinity of violence, evaporate anonymously into the cold Brooklyn air.