GUADALAJARA — Shot in Mexican helmer-scribe’s Gabriela Dominguez Ruvalcaba’s native Chiapas, as well as Puebla, Baja and Durango, “La danza del hipocampo” (The Dance of Memory) is a mesmerizing exploration of the mysteries of memory. Docu- essay has been playing to packed screenings in Guadalajara. Dominguez’s previous work with experimental videodanza shorts informs the docu, using undulating underwater imagery as a metaphor for memory. This is also a feature debut for producer Erika Mercado. Variety talked to the director at Guadalajara.
What inspired you to make this documentary?
It all started with my observations about memory and my concern about what kind of memories my nieces and nephews would have about our family’s past. I was lucky that I was able to tap my family archives. In a way, I am leaving a legacy for them.
Explain the seahorse metaphor in your title
While researching for this film, I studied neurology, about the part in the brain related to memory, the ‘hipocampo’ in Spanish. It is shaped like a seahorse and the word “hipocampo” also means seahorse in Spanish. It was a perfect reference to the profundity of the sea and of memory.
What did you work on before making this feature?
I made several shorts in an effort to question my surroundings and experimented with ‘videodanza,’ which are not dance videos but an exploration of the inherent dance in moving images. One of my first shorts, which participated in the 2006 Guanajuato Film Festival, was “Del Huipil a la Chilaba” which centered on the indigenous women in Chiapas who have converted to Islam. My master thesis from the Universidad Autonoma de Barcelona, “Fuera del Ring,” was aired on TV Catalonia.
What did it cost you to make your documentary?
We spent around $1.3 million, most of which went on post production. We also had backing from the Foprocine film fund. I co-wrote the screenplay with Carlos Corea, a professional screenwriter.
Tell me about the shoot itself.
We shot for a total of four months last year and used various cameras, including the 8 mm, Super 8, HD and Betacam. Our director of photography was Cesar Salgado but the underwater shots were by Alejandro Rivas. We struggled to find a real seahorse to film but we found one on our last day!