Paola Mendoza knows how it feels to be passed over by festival juries. She knows what it's like to have the financing ripped out from under her. And she knows the frustration of having the plug pulled on a project more than halfway through production. "Sometimes I get fed up, and I'm like, 'Fuck this bullshit, I can't deal with this anymore,'" says the 28-year-old Mendoza. "And then I'm like, 'OK, what else would I want to do?' And there's nothing. So that's when I know that I'm doing what I'm supposed to be doing."
Happily, her hard work is starting to garner attention. Autumn's Eyes, a
documentary she co-directed, about a little girl whose mother is incarcerated,
was accepted at the 2006 SXSW Film Festival, and a screenplay she has
co-written, We Can, will be appraised at this year's IFP Market. Then there's
Padre Nuestro, a film about two illegal Mexican immigrant boys trying to
navigate an unwelcoming New York City, which won the Grand Jury Prize at
Sundance this year. Mendoza plays Magda, a street-hardened hustler who
reluctantly agrees to help the boys. "I'd been hoping, praying -- every film, I'm
like, 'Oh, please get into Sundance, please, please,'" Mendoza concedes.
"Personally, I've had a project four times [submitted] and I've never gotten in,
so when Chris [Zalla, the director] called and told me we got in, literally, I
screamed in his ear."
Katherine Dykstra * Photographed by Katherine Wolkoff
Paola Mendoza wears a dress by D & G and earrings by Ted Muehling * Styling by Kristen Naiman * Hair by Wesley O'Meara for Bumble & bumble at the Wall Group * Makeup by Margina Dennis for Kevyn Aucoin * Assistant to photographer: Benya Hegenbarth * Interns: Jordan Kinney and Meagan Brant
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