Mexico: Up Next! David Zonana

Lucia Films-based producer-turned-director spins a dark tale with “Princess”

In Zonana’s “Princess” (“Princesa”), his short film debut, which he also wrote, a teen, Natalia, is raped – or so she says – mopes around recovering with her mother, does HIV tests, has sex with her caring boyfriend. She then goes to a bar, meets two middle-aged strangers, has sex with them in a lavatory. There are several explanations for her behavior, all disquietening.

“Princess” is produced by Mexico City’s Lucia Films, headed by Michel Franco, who won Cannes best screenplay for “Chronic” and Gabriel Ripstein, who took Best First Feature at Berlin. In an annus mirabilis, Lucia Films also co-produced Lorenzo Vigas’ Venice Golden Lion winner “From Afar.”

It shows. “Princess” is set in a well-healed Mexico City neighborhood, but utterly unfussy, unencumbered by art direction – there was no art director, Zonana said – or any stunning cinematography, focused on screenplay and Berkana Alarcon Braun’s central perf. Whether Natalia acts out of a desire for “self-punishment,” as Zonana puts it, or a loss of respect, or any kind of pleasure as she discovers her darker side, is unclear. The ambiguity is in what happens in her head,” Zonana said. “This happens in many films: It’s impossible to enter characters’ minds.”

“My take is that shorts have to be as concise as possible. Their principal element is the story they tell.”

Zonana took an exec producer credit on Jorge Hernandez Aldana’s “Heirs,” about rich kids’ violence, also from Lucia Films, served as associate producer on “600 Miles,” and co-producer on “Chronic.” He wrapped Tuesday the shoot of his second still-untitled short. It again explores a female sensibility, turning on a 24-25 year old woman who refuses to accept she has leukemia. Her behavior has consequences.

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