Ieva Balsiunaite

Lithuania

Ieva Balsiunaite

director, producer, sales agent

The Poor Cry Too

In a Mexican restaurant in Vilnius, TV sets are playing 30-year-old Mexican telenovelas. Renata Šakalytė, a TV host, sits down for dinner with her two daughters. The girls are excited to understand a bit of Spanish while Renata can’t take her eyes off the screens. She tells the girls how she watched all these telenovelas, how she reenacted scenes with her friends, and how missing an episode was a personal tragedy for so many Lithuanian women at that time.

A flashback to a dark November day of 1991. Some people in worn-out jackets try to squeeze into a jam-packed trolleybus, others stand in a meandering queue outside a store with empty shelves. Just a few hours later, the streets become eerily empty and the cashiers are nowhere to be found. The empty landscape is filled with Spanish cries and shouts. Everyone is watching the hugely popular Mexican telenovela The Rich Also Cry.

“Without telenovelas, I probably wouldn't be alive today,” shares Renata as she meets a group of Lithuanian women who were all big telenovela fans. Renata’s eyes fill with tears as she remembers her abusive stepdad, and how she used to daydream of her real father appearing to save her, just like in the telenovelas. For her, as for thousands of other girls and women, telenovelas became much needed therapy. “The women on screen, who prayed, were kind and loved deeply, always found happiness at the end. And we all wanted that!” shares 62-year-old oncologist Regina, who recollects the sheer exhaustion from working two jobs, raising two children and fearing for life in the streets filled with gangs.

The famous Mexican actress Thalia opens the front door of her home. Outside stands Renata who has just traveled across the Atlantic to meet her childhood heroine. Thalia doesn’t yet know how significant she was to this woman’s life. The two embrace. What follows is a celebration of the human capacity to find hope, laughter, and connection even in the most challenging times.
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