10 Directors to Watch
Mexican scribe Guillermo Arriaga (“21 Grams,” “Babel”) discovered Jorge Hernandez Aldana’s short “First Step Over the Clouds” at a 2002 film festival in Venezuela and knew immediately he’d found a filmmaker who shared his tastes for raw, wrenching portraits of the human condition.
Soon after, Arriaga tapped Hernandez to helm the adaptation of his novel “El bufalo de la noche” (The Night Buffalo). Hernandez spent 2½ years adapting the script that would become Arriaga’s first venture as a producer.
The Venezuelan-born helmer was an avid photographer and film buff in his youth. He began experimenting with short films in college while working toward a doctorate in computer science, which he abandoned to seriously pursue moviemaking in 1993 at the Lodz film school in freshly post-Communist Poland.
After his studies, Hernandez worked in commercials and television in Mexico and Poland before focusing on “Buffalo” in 2003.
Hernandez was excited by the political and social shifts in Eastern Europe following the collapse of communism, and drawn to the style of the region’s directors. He says he was inspired by the realism of Eastern European cinema, and “their approach to the subject, not as a character but as people, what side of a situation they took and how to shoot it. The Polish masters showed me that you could make movies be so personal, that you could not follow any of the rules.”
Arriaga says Hernandez is a major talent whose taste is refined and who’s willing to experiment. “What I admire about Jorge is his elegance and attention to detail. He tells a story with full control of the technology and also knows the grammar of cinema.”
Hernandez is interested in making films he hasn’t yet seen. “You have to have a real reason to do a movie, to ask yourself, ‘Has this been done before?’ ”
Hernandez describes the filming of “Buffalo,” his first feature, as a “nine-week freefall.” He eschews excessive planning of shoots in order to be inspired by what’s happening on the set. “I would go to the set, work it out with actors and just start shooting the movie on the spot. If I had any images of how the book would look on film, everything changed. What came out was nothing like what I thought it would be at the beginning.”
His next project will be a film about progressive rock group the Mars Volta. Hernandez sought out Mars guitarist Omar Rodriguez-Lopez to score “Buffalo.” “Their musical world matched perfectly with the world of the film. I was looking for someone who sounded like them, and then they agreed to do it.”
As for his next fiction feature, Hernandez has a script of his own that he would like to film, but he also has other offers to direct. “I don’t want to move too quickly. I’m opening a lot of doors and trying to see where they lead.”
Provenance: Caracas, Venezuela
Inspired by: Federico Fellini, John Cassavetes, Ken Loach, Krzysztof Kieslowski, Roman Polanski