By Carlos A. Gutiérrez
The Chambermaid / La camarista, the auspicious and engaging film debut by Mexican director-actress-dramatist Lila Avilés, will have its world premiere this September in the Discovery section at the Toronto Film Festival, followed by a European premiere in the Kutxabank New Directors' competition at the San Sebastián Film Festival.
A poignant and delicate class portrait, Avilés’ film follows Eve—played by the wonderful Gabriela Cartol (I Dream in Another Language)—a young chambermaid working in one of the most luxurious hotels in Mexico City, an exclusive glass tower inhabited by wealthy guests whose lives she imagines by their belongings left behind and absence.
Long, laborious shifts prevent Eve from caring for her child as she helps guests with their own children, but she believes she can better her situation after she’s promoted to work at executive-level suites, for which she accepts a grueling schedule. In keeping with desire to improve her lot, she also enrolls in the hotel’s adult education program.
An incipient friendship with her coworker and an awkward, silent flirtation with a window-washer prod her toward much needed bravery. When things don’t result as planned, Eve transforms her solitary explorations and newfound courage into the strength to face a life outside the high-class prison that’s entrapped her, breaking rules and discovering herself.
Inspired by Avilés’ theater play of the same name—in turn inspired by Sophie Calle’s 1980 artistic project “The Hotel,” in which the French artist worked as a chambermaid in a Venice hotel—The Chambermaid is a standout among a thriving new generation of Mexican and Latin American women filmmakers. With impeccable cinematography, a near-documentary eye, and a humanistic gaze, the film signals Avilés as a talent to watch.