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Mexico: Up Next! Laura Baumeister, Teresa Kuhn

“Isabel Im Winter,” which they co-directed, presents a heterodox view of motherhood

MORELIA – For Isabel (Lea Wyy), motherhood is not enough. “I hate this place,” she declares in “Isabel Im Winter,” of her home, a benighted rural chalet abutting greenhouses where she lives with her sister and mother, on some wane plain in Germany.

“I want to go away with you,” she says in the short’s intro scene as she couples in a car. The man on top of her, slaps her, turfs her out of the vehicle.

Paralyzed by guilt – or “fear to recognize and above all admit the consequences” of what she feels, as Baumeister puts it – she cannot relate to her love-seeking small son, who ties her to the home.

Many young directors’ shorts are high on technical values – virtual industry calling cards – but low on originality, fruit of imaginations which have seen plenty films, less of the world. “Isabel Im Winter” is an exception, a heterodox view of motherhood.

Said Baumeister: “Blame, a sense of strangeness and dissatisfaction are some of the basic emotions shaping our protagonist. We tried to make a film which would construct dialogue around an idea as yet not taken on board by society that a woman finds answers in maternity to her own emptiness.”

Unspooling in a highly symbolic universe – from the trains going by and to somewhere else on the nearby railway track to the family dog, another anchor– “Isabel Im Winter” is fruit of the gathering – and healthy – international diaspora of young Mexican filmmakers which allows them access to new landscapes and creative talent.

It was made at and co-financed by Munich’s HFF film school – more coin came from crowd-funding, sponsorship – after Baumeister and Kuhn began working together at Mexico’s CCC.

“As a director, Laura has large visual understanding; I’m very interested in story and character; it was always a very intense collaboration. We inspire one another mutually,” said Kuhn.

Psychologically, “Isabel is paralyzed,” she continued. So the directors used static shots, “subtle” dolly set-ups that, if they follow movement, lag behind. A scope format related Isabel to her surroundings and distanced characters. Lighting – quite low, diffuse, with Isabel’s face often in semi- dark – was inspired in part by David Fincher’s “Girl with the Dragon Tattoo.” Hitting the Mexican fest trail from January – Merida and Yucatan, Shorts Mexico, Festival CineMA, now Morelia – “Isabel Im Winter” will be seen next month at Sweden’s Stockholm Fest. The directors hope the short will soon be seen in the U.S.

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