We have all imagined, if only for a moment, the lives of strangers. Most of us guess a few stereotypical details and drop the matter quickly. Colombian film director Gabriel Rojas Vera, however, after seeing a woman quietly crying on a bus in Bogata, wrote and directed the film Karen Cries on the Bus, the story of a timid woman trying to break away from her marriage to find a more satisfying life. From the opening scene of Karen on a late night bus, viewers know something has gone wrong in her life.
Dressed nicely, if somewhat plainly, she seems out of place on the bus and in the poor neighborhood in which she drags her rolling suitcase. In the dark, she pleads for a room and overpays. In the morning, after she discovers the filth and insects, she begins her search for a job with which to support herself. The quest is, of course, difficult for a woman who has never worked outside the home, and her resolve is quickly tested by offers from her mother and husband to let her return to where they want her.
The director has said that he was quite astonished by the strong response to his film by women in his country. He thought he was telling an individual's story, but many women of Colombia and elsewhere identify with Karen's struggle against the demand that she return to the role her family had assigned her as a youth. Our film discussion group at the library was sympathetic and appreciated the artful storytelling. Karen Cries on the Bus is a good addition to foreign film collections.
Rojas Vera, Gabriel. Karen Cries on the Bus. Film Movement, 2011. ISBN 9781461843849.