Reno Finds Her Mom
The outrageous outspoken and just plain out Reno will be in attendance to introduce her 1998 HBO special.
RENO FINDS HER MOM follows oddball comedian and political screamer Reno through her real life search to find the birth mother who abandoned her as an infant. The camera follows Reno out onto the streets, into the halls of bureaucracy, across the country - or wherever the trail may lead - en route to solving the mystery of her birth. As a docu-comedy, the program uses a raw cinema verite approach to the actual search blended with heightened fantasy sequences in which Reno both looks forward to and dreads the truth that awaits her.
The Renos (the couple who adopted the 3 month old Reno when they were of grandparents' age) are supportive of Reno's search. But winding through RFHM is the fact that Reno never felt at home with the Reno family. She has not been able to let herself off this hook, this quandary over her place, her role, what the hell she is doing in the Reno family picture. Her misfit identity is clear. Among other places, her genes never belonged in suburbia. Mary Tyler Moore plays Mrs. Reno in several fictional sequences where Reno remembers what it was like growing up. "Mom, did you ever know I was funny?" is a hilarious scene wrought with black comedy. Lily Tomlin, Reno's actual childhood idol and inspiration, plays Reno's godmother who lives in her brain, pushing her along her way.
Reno starts to see the search for her biological mom as a necessity, an inevitability, like Medea with the burning kids. All signs point. All bells clang. Her life has always been in tumult, but over the past 2 or 3 years, she has experienced a significant rise in the chaos.
Reno's unfaith in the state arrives in full dress suit the moment she starts searching in full time earnest. She tries all the legal means. Nothing, until a social worker accidentally lets loose Mom's birthdate. Then the illegal means -- all the while, spy cams whirring.
Calling people with her same birth name adds another layer of deceit as she spirals so deep into genealogy land she's gotta keep a bogus family tree just to keep track. One of the deepest and most ferocious fears is that if she does find her Mom, her Mom will not want to be found.
Three and a half months into the search, the social worker seems to be the only chance left. That's when she admits that the 100 year-old agency has actually lost Reno's file. Identity deleted, Reno is desperate. She talks to some detectives, but has doubts about their methods (and their fees). Who do you go to when you're desperate to find someone? Even yourself? Where do the CIA, the FBI, the Army Intelligence guys, go after they retire?
Just under twenty four hours later, Reno, (with lots of cash in small denominations) arrives at an address out in Long Island. If Reno thought she knew that committing this story to film would present her with difficult moral and ethical questions, they were bupkus once she was holding the name and address of her birth mother in her hands. All of sudden, Reno's birth mother fantasy had changed into an unknown reality. Reno had never imagined her mother to be a Puerto Rican and Cuban Republican who owned factories in her rock bottom least favorite town in America--L.A.! The whole "city" is the suburbs.
Turns out Reno's mom was glad to be found. She said she'd had a hole in her heart for 40 years. She had lied about her own Latina heritage in order to get baby Reno a "better" placement. But her story had been a real life secret and lie, and most of her family, including her other children, had never been told. Her guilt and shame translated into fear of being publicly identified.
And Reno has a lot of explaining to do about the movie! Did she find her mother to make a movie or because she wanted to find her mother? For Reno, whose material is her life and her life is her work, this ethical issue continues to find shape as Reno finds that each of our lives are huge jigsaw puzzles sometimes in contextual, but most often in arbitrary, juxtaposition with each other. The pieces will never neatly fit. And maybe Reno is calming down about this reality. Finally.
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Reno Finds Her Mom
Sunday, March 27, 2011, 7:00 pm–9:00 pm
RENO FINDS HER MOM follows oddball comedian and political screamer Reno through her real life search to find the birth mother who abandoned her as an infant. Reno will be in attendance to introduce the seminal HBO specials as well as for a post-screening Q & A.
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506 Fifth Avenue, Brooklyn, NY
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