Michel Franco Discusses ‘April’s Daughter,’ Style, Mexico

Starring Emma Suarez, Franco’s fifth feature plays in Un Certain Regard at this year’s Cannes Festival

'April's Daughter,' Michel Franco and Emma Suarez
Copyright: Lucia Films/Alexandra Bas

Michel Franco’s hallmark – high-drama, dispassionately shot – is still there. But, with shorter sequence shots, more characters, even music, “April’s Daughter,” the fifth feature from Mexico’s Cannes-laureled Franco (“After Lucia,” “Chronic,” with Tim Roth) is also, as Franco promised before shooting, his least demanding for broader audiences.

“April’s Daughter” stars Emma Suárez, who co-headlined Pedro Almodóvar’s “Julieta,” as a Spanish mother who returns to Mexico’s seaside resort of Puerto Vallarta, supposedly to look after her 17-year-old, heavily-pregnant daughter, Valeria. Once the baby is born, however, April turns out to be a mother from hell.

As always, Franco shoots but does not judge, which leaves “April’s Daughter” open to multiple interpretations. One is of a baby boomer generation, exemplified by April and Valeria’s b.f’s parents, who are so obsessed with themselves – their youth and professions –  as to (literally in April’s case) attempt to rob the current young of their future.

Another is a vision of yet another Latin American broken family, with an absent father and wayward, to put it mildly, mother. Which begs a question: Without a robust welfare state in Latin America, families provide the near only safety net. But if that unit is so often dysfunctional, whom can the young turn to for support? In the case of “April’s Daughter,” Valeria, betrayed at every turn, can only turn to herself.

Variety talked to Franco at Cannes.

Announcing “April’s Daughter,” you told us that to was aimed at broader public. Could you comment on the reasons for the change?

Every movie is different. When we decided to make a movie like “Chronic,” we decided to make it about the end of life without any commitment with regards to audience appeal. The public would go to the cinema knowing what they were going to see. “April’s Daughter” is naturally more accessible. The topics are easier for the public to interact with.

This is a very feminine film…

Yes, it’s a more feminine movie in general. We have three takes on women, of different ages and characters. It was filmed by the sea, which is almost another female element. I feel that everything has led me to this result and that is going to reflect in the way people accept the film. Now it’s up to the public to decide.

Can you talk in more detail about your stylistic changes. This is still an intimate film shot with a certain documentary style.

It was very important for me to find the best way to tell the story from three different points of view. This required another

way of shooting. The energy of this film as it begins is very different from that of “Chronic” or “After Lucia.” This is a film with many twists and turns, with many surprises for the spectator, which required the camera to accompany the characters, portraying their POVs. I still think, however, that the cinema I enjoy the most is one that does not dictate to the viewer what they have to think or feel.

That is also a measure of respect for the viewer

Yes, for me cinema doesn’t work any other way. If there is no respect for the viewer, if one is patronizing, aims to know how they will react or what they should think or feel using music and editing in a way that diminishes the characters and the story, I as a spectator not be interested in the movie.

Director Lorenzo Vigas [winner of Venice’s Golden Lion in 2015 with “From Afar” and  one of the producers on “April’s Daughter”] suggested you both share “the same vision of cinema that must be made now.” What is that cinema? Do you sense in any way that you are helping to create a new cinema movement in Mexico?

That would be very ambitious: I don’t want to take on that responsibility! But I would say that, as in Greece, there has been a new wave of young directors, just as what happened in Romania with Mungiu. I think something similar is happening with the films we are doing at Lucia Films. Of course, both in Greece and in Romania and in our case, there are no statutes or proscriptions like Dogme 95.

What would be some common aspects?

I think the most important thing is our relationship with the spectator. For us, it’s not important whether or not there’s music in the movies. What is important is a respect for the viewer, an objective point of view. I would not want to lose that.

How does Mexico add to your cinema?

Mexico is chaos. It is a disaster as a country. That makes it all the more interesting because it inspires many stories. It is very disturbing to live in Mexico.