The Life of Lorina Padilla is very hard to pin down. If you look at her teens and 20’s you’d likely see a fierce, tough, and even sometimes feared streetwise Bronx resident who would become the Godmother of the Savage Skulls gang after marrying the gang’s main leader Blackie. In her 30’s and 40’s, you’d see a struggling mother to not only her own kids but the community around her- parts of which she builds with her own hands. Now as a grandmother multiple times over she’s a fierce activist, fighting against the gentrification of her neighborhood who is feared by some politicians while embraced by others. All of this is explored through La Madrina: The (Savage) Life of Lorine Padilla.
Due to archival footage existing of a young Padilla, who has apparently had camera’s around her for much of her life due to her tenacious nature, director Raquel Cepeda is allowed to dig deeper into this woman’s life. Yes, Lorina has lived a fascinating life. But in many ways, it’s the people that surround her and still affectionately call her godmother that define her most. Godmother, now coming from a place that’s 100% love and not fear, practices as a Santeria healer for all her friends and relatives.
But perhaps one of the best touches/inspired ideas that come from Cepeda and crew is perhaps amongst the easiest and simplest. At one point they simply set up 2 folding chairs on the sidewalk outside of a former housing project where she used to live and simply had her sit there with the chair beside empty cameras rolling, just to watch what would happen. And the love and mad respect that is shown to Lorine by countless people while she sits there speaks more than many words could possibly ever say.