A web-series currently in production and slated for a mid-2018 release, Las Rosas is the Western Sydney telenovela produced by CuriousWorks. Set in Mount Druitt, the telenovela fuses a Latin-American tradition and adapts it to Australian culture to create a Latin-Australian story that we rarely get see.
Unlike your run-of-the-mill soap opera that runs indefinitely (how many times can Ridge get back with Brooke then go back to Taylor?) telenovelas have a limited lifespan. On average, most telenovelas run anywhere between six months to two years. A telenovela you may be familiar with is Yo Soy Betty La Fea, which has now been adapted to the infamous Ugly Betty. Not exaggerating when I say it’s probably the most successful telenovela ever.
Telenovelas are a huge part of Latin American culture. Growing up Latina in Sydney, I remember congregating with my family to watch a telenovela called La Ricka Vicki. I only have vague recollections of the storyline, something about a girl who falls in love with a boy. What I do remember is the way we passed those DVDs around our 30 pax family here in Australia. My aunty would go to the South American shop in Fairfield, hire the DVDs, and they would go on rotation throughout the family in Sydney. We were all hooked on the same show at the same time.
For most immigrants in Australia, there will always be a struggle to find connections to culture. Oftentimes, it’s easy to feel that mainstream media isn’t about you. In some small way, Las Rosas bridges this gap. In Anglo culture, it’s a huge deal when you turn sixteen, so it’s no surprise that many Australian coming-of-age stories focus on the sweet sixteenth. In Hispanic culture, however, your quinceanera (to celebrate your fifteenth birthday) is your biggest party besides your wedding. It’s a rite of passage into womanhood: there are religious customs, a dance with the father, a gown, a waltz, and, of course, enough food to feed a third-world country. Rightfully then, Las Rosas concerns itself with the latter.
Las Rosas is centred around a sister’s quest to plan the ultimate quinceanera for her younger sister. Growing up in a housing commission in Mount Druitt, eldest sister Marisol’s life was dealt a terrible blow when her mother died on the eve of her quinceanera. In attending her mother’s funeral, she missed out on her own rite of passage into womanhood. Fast forward a few years: the orphaned sisters are left to fend for themselves and it’s up to Marisol to plan for her sister the quinceanera she never got.
The director, Daisy Montalvo, dreamed of working in film from a very young age. However, it never really occurred to her that it would become a reality. For many, growing up in a migrant family and being raised in Western Sydney can compound to create an imposter syndrome that sets in at a very young age. The world just isn’t open to all like it is to some, that privilege is not shared by all.
Daisy originally came up with a story that solely focused on Ethan and Marisol, with an aim to: “examine verbal abuse in relationships”. As she began to write, however, her story evolved and she fell in love with the idea of incorporating her culture and community into the series. Like most Latina girls she remembers her culture and the struggle of connecting to it in Western Sydney. The storyline and the sisters themselves are close reflections of herself and she says that growing up she was ashamed to admit she lived in government housing and embarrassed to be from Mount Druitt.
Like Daisy, the showrunners are all from mixed backgrounds and this film was an opportunity to tell stories from their own communities rather than rely on outsiders to do it for them. We all know we already have enough of that.
The director and her cast and crew have come together in this telenovela series with the hopes that you will gain a better understanding of a culture that isn’t depicted in mainstream media and probably won’t be anytime soon. These stories are vital if we are to understand the multifaceted cultures of our Australia and it’s about time they got their moment in the spotlight