Ma Ma is the first movie fully produced by Penélope Cruz. The three-time Golden Globe nominated actress has produced before but, as she herself recognized, “never from the first moment”. But that was the level of passion Cruz felt when she read the script from fellow Spaniard Julio Medem, who also directed the film. “I had to play this woman no matter what”, remembers the actress.
In Ma Ma Cruz plays Magda, a mother ready to overcome adversity. As so many women Magda is diagnosed with breast cancer and the movie follows her journey through treatment, remission, pregnancy, and recurrence. It is a melodrama without the melodrama, says Cruz, because, above all, Ma Ma is a story about life, not death.
Fond of palindromes, Medem wanted to play with the duality Life/Death beginning with the title, a game of words with “mamá” (mother in Spanish) and “mama” (breast, also in Spanish). Ma Ma is a departure for Medem’s who is known for the sensibility and eroticism of his previous movies Sex and Lucía or Lovers of the Artic Circle. As the director admits, this is the first time he portrays a character who is not only a woman or a lover but a mother. It’s also the first time Cruz and Medem, both leading Spanish talent, work together.
But this is the second time that Penélope Cruz has done a movie where breast cancer was part of the plot. The first was Elegy, based on the Philip Roth novel, The Dying Animal. On this occasion Cruz, now a mother of two, worked together with doctors and patients who went or were going through similar experiences and hopes to honor them with the movie. That’s why one of the most beautiful women on screen left the make up behind and agreed to shave her hair to achieve realism.
But what Penélope Cruz really wanted to learn with this movie is movie making. For her, producing Ma Ma was only the first step to her long time goal: to become a film director. Before that moment arrives, she has signed up with Iranian director Asghar Farhadi for his next project while she awaits the conclusion of Escobar, on which she is working with her husband, Javier Bardem. As she admitted, Cruz is not yet ready to work behind the camera. “Maybe in 8, 10 years time”, she acknowledged to the Spanish press thinking about how to expand her horizons.