Lissette Feliciano’s feature film directorial debut “Women Is Losers” shares the title with an obscure Janis Joplin song that conjures up visions of sexist repression. Feliciano is from San Francisco, where the film is set in the late 1960s, a time when many of us were waking up our politically opiated consciousness.
Seventeen-year-old protagonist Celina Guerrera (Lorenza Izzo) has it rough at home. Her dad is a controlling misogynist who gains courage from beer. When Celina asks to attend a welcome home party for her beau, dad (Steven Bauer) is not above accusing his daughter of a-whoring around, implying that she takes after her mother. That’s typical paternal patter at the Guerrera house. The ensuing argument causes Celina to flee to her room. She changes into a dress and ducks out her bedroom window, sneaking to the party anyway.
There she meets up with her BF Marty (Chrissie Fit) and they both have romantic interludes with their boyfriends, an indiscretion that creates devastating circumstances.
The story navigates through all the obstacles that teenage mom Celina must now face: being stuck in an entry-level job, a dysfunctional home situation until she moves out, a mentoring boss who helps her, even while hitting on her until she marries Mateo (Bryan Craig), the father of her child. With a drunken father and drunken husband, it looks bad for Celina, especially when she gets fired from her job.
Feliciano describes herself as a multi-hyphenate creator.
“I write, I direct, I produce and I act. It’s about being able to create stories. The way this story came about was through a conversation with my mother,” she says.
“My mother was a single mom and an immigrant. She raised me with that immigrant mantra of ‘don’t complain, keep your head and work hard’ with the promise that that combination was all I needed to succeed. Over time, I came to realize that it seemed like that formula was just not going to be enough for my path.”
Feliciano adds, “It was a very humbling moment when, a little bit into my career, I had to come home and tell her, ‘I know that you told me to do all these things and I’m doing them, but it’s not working.’ I expected her to tell me to buck up, keep going, don’t cry — all the things she usually told me. But she didn’t. It was at that point that she opened up to me and told me what she endured as an immigrant who became an entrepreneurial woman of color in the ‘60s and ’70s. It was heartbreaking and informative, but also maddening because everything she was telling me was more or less still happening to me so many years later.
“That’s why I chose to have the film break the fourth wall as well — to have the conversation with the audience that my mother had with me. Though these characters are walking around in the ‘60s and ‘70s, they might as well be walking around in 2021. When they turn around, face the camera and address the audience they are really 2021 people. It’s the connective tissue between my mom’s generation and my generation.”
The soundtrack to Feliciano’s film provides expert scene manipulation throughout. Donna Summer, Joplin, Tito Puente and Snow Patrol are all in there. Leading lady Izzo as Celina especially slays it in the previously mentioned “sneak to the party” scene. It’s choreographed as the character musters all the teen angst possible as she performs a costume change into her party dress, while Sugar Pie DeSanto belts out the song “Witch For A Night.”
“Women Is Losers” is an important film that restates and reclaims the premise that women of color still struggle through the promise of democracy. We are all afflicted by the failures and successes of that promise.
IF YOU WATCH
Women Is Losers
Starring: Lorenza Izzo, Chrissie Fit, Bryan Craig, Steven Bauer
Written and directed by: Lissette Feliciano
Running time: 1 hour, 24 minutes