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An American dream personified, Rita Moreno opens up about Hollywood, persona trauma, and her personal life after 70 years in the limelight with her documentary Rita Moreno: Just a Girl Who Decided to Go For It.  The shackles of society, of Hollywood, of her own making, were something she had to navigate until much later in her career where she discovered being her person was all she needed.

After losing her husband and a few glasses of wine, Rita knew that it was time to let go of a lot of trauma she held onto, some public, some not. After a torrid love affair with Marlon Brando, which led her into a life of activism only to have a back door abortion that nearly killed her, she attempted suicide. This iconic woman believed her life was not worth living. And while much of this was already public, she digs deep in sharing with the director and fellow Puerto Rican Mariem Pérez Riera.

In her confessional interviews, she recognizes that the insecurity and fears she held onto since a child led to destructive choices. Once she found her freed attitude, her real success began. The first Latina to win the EGOT (Emmy, Grammy, Oscar, and Tony), she received a Lifetime Achievement Award in 2018 as she starred in an adapted sitcom, One Day At A Time and a new version of West Side Story. For a woman to unpack her trauma from a life of sexism, racism, and being told she was only a pin-up doll and do so in a refreshingly honest way, anyone who watches this will go through their own tsunami of emotions.

The typical biopic moments covering her background, how she was discovered, and celebrity figures talking about her importance of paving the way for Latina actors and also women are all there. Still, the stand-out moments are her one-liners that say more about her truth than any b-roll.

As she speaks honestly about her marriage, she confesses, “He was sincere, I wasn’t,” but when speaking of Brando and his selfish artistic nature, her gravitas in stating “and he loved me” shakes the viewer to their core. As she shares a story of a rape, tells the story of a studio head’s molestation, she rises above the levels with dignity, noting what positive came from the moments.

The documentary is excellent because Rita Moreno elevates by her presence. But I spent half the time shown behind the scenes of her latest show just wishing that someone would bring back One Day At A Time. Let’s not waste any time with this treasure. As an American Masters PBS documentary, the film will air on PBS soon.

– Melanie Addington (@MelAddington)

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Melanie Addington is the Executive Director of Tallgrass Film Association as of 2021. She has worked in the film festival world since 2006, first as a volunteer, and then eventually becoming the Oxford Film Festival Executive Director in August 2015. She used to be a reporter for the Oxford Eagle (a community newspaper) and then Pizza Magazine Quarterly (a global trade magazine). She still loves pizza. And she still writes for Hammer to Nail and Film Festival Today about her other great love: movies. She is from Southern California originally but lived in the South for 20 years. She now resides in Wichita, KS, and has one son.

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