'Small films have a soul that money can not buy'
PANAMA – Julio Hernández Cordón’s “Te prometo anarquía” is one of five films from Central American and the Caribbean under consideration to be awarded $25,000 in completion funding from IFF Panama’s industry section, Primera Mirada. The award, which received 55 submissions from across the region, will be announced on April 14.
All five films are being screened during special sessions at the festival, where the filmmakers get an opportunity to answer questions from the Primera Mirada panel and industry executives.
“Te prometo anarquía” – the director is still deciding on the most suitable English language title – has already been skating above the radar in industry terms and has attracted funding from the Berlinale’s World Cinema Fund and the Mexican government’s subsidy kitty, Foprocine. A Mexico / Germany co-production, the film is produced by Sandra Gómez, Maximiliano Cruz and Hernández Cordón.
Director Hernández Cordón was born in North Carolina to a Mexican father and a Guatemalan mother and has already made a name for himself with his features “Gasoline” (“Gasolina”) and “Dust” (“Polvo”), and “Marimbas from Hell” (“Marimbas del infierno”). All have picked up festival awards including at San Sebastian, Miami and Buenos Aires.
In “Te prometo anarquía,” two young men, Miguel and Johnny, have a close friendship and sexual relationship which they hide in front of others. They skate all day in the streets of Mexico City and sell blood to hospital emergency rooms. Trafficking blood is a way for them to earn a living and keep skating without having to follow other people’s rules. When a crime cartel contacts them to supply the blood for their clandestine clinics at a higher price, the boys accept, but the deal does not go to plan.
“The idea is to make a male love story, in which emotions are contained, and the silence and actions have much more impact,” Hernández Cordón explains. “I want to focus on people who engage in criminal activities whilst avoiding clichés, my criminals will not appear to be criminals despite their dirty appearance. They are common guys who are passionate about an extreme sport and what they want is to live in the present, as often happens with people who engage in crime.”
Prior to the film’s Primera Mirada screening in Panama, Hernández Cordón spoke to Variety.
Do you think Latin American and global audiences have matured so that a film such as “Te prometo anarquía” – with a male relationship at its core – is no longer restricted to the LGBT circuit or festival sidebars?
The film is about friendship, fellowship. The gay theme belongs to my characters’ lives, but it is not what makes the story move forward. I can say that Mexico City is quite open towards sexual diversity. Social inclusion is an important issue in the City Council’s politics. I don’t think the film will be categorized as a ‘LGBT film’. In case it does, somehow it will be a way to demonstrate how every society lives and assimilates sexual diversity.
Did you look for actors who could skateboard or did you have to teach them? What problems did you face to film the skateboarding scenes?
My actors are real skaters, not professional actors. I cast them through Facebook. I first chose them because I liked their faces and the stuff they uploaded or got published on the net. I wanted them to be as natural as they were, and to bring that fresh spontaneity to the screen. The skate scenes weren’t a problem at all. I wanted them to transmit a floating feeling. The characters are like vamps that wonder around with a soft cadence.
Do you think that young European audiences will recognize themselves in the struggles that your protagonists and their friends face in Mexico?
Why not? I believe that today the youth has more similarities, things and worries in common, regardless of the geographical distance.
There are five titles by Guatemalan directors in either Primera Mirada or the IFF Panama’s Central America/Caribbean section. People are talking about a “New Guatemalan Cinema.” Why this renaissance, or naissance, when there are no film funds in Guatemala?
Guatemala has been a country of creators from Mayan times, when the opol Vuh came to light. It’s a country that has produced writers such as Miguel Angel Asturias, Luis Cardoza y Aragón, Augusto Monterroso, Rodrigo Rey Rosa and Eduardo Halfon, as well as plastic artists like Carlos Merida, Luis González Palma, Regina José Galindo and many others. It is a country that expresses itself significantly through art.
It’s a small country with a lot of problems that are channeled into artistic expression, although creation is not considered vital in Guatemala. Furthermore, in cinema, technology helps production: it allows for cheap shooting; it’s possible to shoot with one’s hands. There’s so much chaos in Guatemala that art is channeled individually through a mere handful of people – that’s how I see it.
How important was the support of the Berlinale’s World Cinema Fund and Mexico’s Foprocine to get “Te prometo anarquía” up and running?
The film simply would not exist without this financial support.
With Mexican directors winning back-to-back academy awards, does that put more pressure on the country’s new directors, or do you think it inspires them and opens doors for Latin American talent working behind the camera?
I am not excited about the Oscars or even the red carpet. I find them very boring and dull. I believe that the most interesting cinema in Latin America is the one that does not aspire to do events, as it can stay more real, independent and close to the director’s intentions, far from the pressures of the financial investors. I really appreciate when a filmmaker achieves a top-level film, despite its lack of financial support. It is easy to make a good film when you have loads of money; you hire the best screenwriters, acting coaches, have plenty of time for shooting, a great DP, great soundtrack, great post production… Small films have a soul that money cannot buy.