MORELIA , Mexico — Nobody at Wednesday’s press conference for the Mexican premiere of Guillermo del Toro’s “The Shape of Water” was surprised that the director held court for eighty minutes, looking as if he could have gone twice that.
Clad all in black, as is customary, the effusive Oscar-winning director gave each question a complete and thoughtful answer.
Shortly after the press screening finished and the plaudits finally died down, a flock of journalists and photographers flooded into the streets of Morelia and moved as one amorphous entity towards Morelia’s Teatro Ocampo.
The buzz picked up where it had left off at the cinema as local media waited anxiously for the country’s most outspoken and recognizable filmmaker to make his entrance. While del Toro’s presence may be a highlight of most any festival he attends around the world, there is little doubt that in his home country of Mexico, he is a certifiable rock star. Once he made his way on to the stage, and after a lengthy applause and photo call, the director sat down with festival head Daniela Michel, festival vice president Cuauhtémoc Cárdenas Batel and Cinépolis CEO Alejandro Ramírez.
The majority of the afternoon’s questions were about “The Shape of Water,” but others covered broader areas such as the state of Mexican cinema, the director’s past projects that never made it to the screen and his history with the Festival on his own projects, as well as those which he has supported over the years.
Del Toro was asked how a film which takes place in the early 1960s can feel so relevant today, “That moment in America, in 1962, where there was an apparent abundance, a progress, but only if you were not a member of a minority,” he said.
“If you were a minority at that time it was very much like it is now. There were gender issues, there was racial brutality, there was active war in ’62. Then the important thing was to make a movie about today, based in time that allows for parable, which was ’62.”
When asked about the maturity of “The Shape of Water,” and how it fits in with his other films, del Toro gave a colorful analogy of his career, earning a burst of laughter from the audience.
“Of my 10 films, all were re-phrasings of childish themes; Little boy Guillermo playing with monsters and robots, in an orphanage with ghosts, little boy Guillermo thinking about fairy tales. Finally, I said, b***** it Guillermo, you’re a big boy now. What do you want to talk to at age 53? And, that’s the movie I made.”
He was dismissive of comparisons to traditional fairy tales like “Beauty and the Beast” or the “Princess and the Frog,” however. After acknowledging the obvious similarities, he lamented, “I think it’s horrifying that a love story should be a story of change.” He said it was important to him that his creature be accepted for what it is, rather than what it could turn into.
The director also took time to speak about the state of Mexican cinema with a passion indicative of his involvement all across the industry.
“Mexican cinema is a necessary and powerful… for me it should stay a cinema that has a connection with Latin America and with itself, with its identity.”
He later added, “for me, the most necessary Mexican cinema is that which embodies the identity of its authors and the country. For me, the ideal cinema is one that is more intimate regardless of scale.”
Well after the conference was done and with many a journalist left saddened that they didn’t get a chance to speak, del Toro and his guests ended the talk to another raucous applause, leaving little doubt about the reverence towards a man who means so much to his country and its film industry.