A plus-sized makeup artist with candy-colored hair and a marijuana addiction has a hard time holding down a proper job, so to make ends meet she deals drugs door to door, pedaling her bike to a colorful cast of clients – including her landlady, a soap star, and a nun – across a wide swath of Mexico City.
An irreverent, transgressive, psychedelic romp, “Tripping-Thru Keta” (El viaje de Keta) is the feature directorial debut of Julio Bekhór and Fernando Sama. The film is screening in the Sexual Diversity Program in Morelia, coming off its world premiere at the Transylvania Int’l. Film Festival.
Bekhór said the idea for “Keta” was born out of conversations with Sama and scripter Beto Cohen about the taboos around recreational drug use in Mexican society. “We really wanted to…have a dialogue with people who watch the film, and to open the minds of the people about these matters,” he said. “We need to talk about this.”
When the film was first conceived six years ago, such subject matter was still widely considered off-limits. “When we started the project, people were like, ‘Oh my God, how do you dare…to do this?’” said Bekhór.
Since then, though, the director has seen a shift in pop culture, with once-taboo topics like drug use and polyamory making their way from the fringes of YouTube into the mainstream. “It’s like a gust of fresh air. I think that helps us to have an evolution as a society, and as human beings. If we don’t open our minds…we’re going to be stuck in the past, and things will not get better,” said Bekhór. “People are tired of all this hypocrisy.”
The progressive push still has its limits. “Keta” was a struggle to finance; producer Santiago Ortiz-Monasterio said the movie was rejected by three Mexican film funds. Instead. it was made on a shoestring budget of just $40,000 that was partly crowdfunded, with the producers using a point system to get the buy-in of cast and crew.
They assembled a line-up of local stars including screen legend Angélica Maria, Patricia Reyes Spíndola (“Frida,” “Fear of the Walking Dead”), and Humberto Busto (“El Chapo”), as well as powerhouse producer Monica Lozano, Carlos Reygadas’ long-time colorist Ernie Schaeffer, editor Antonio Bribiesca (“After Lucia”), and Fred Schneider of the B-52s, who wrote the original theme song. “They really believed in us,” said Bekhór, describing his collaborators as “very nurturing.” “Everything was really fast-paced. It was really guerilla style.”
Finding a distributor has also been a challenge for a boundary-pushing, genre-bending film that one sales agent described to Santiago as “‘Trainspotting’ meets ‘Monty Python’ in a psychedelic world in Mexico City.”
The spotlight in Morelia’s Sexual Diversity sidebar could help the film gain traction on the LGBT festival circuit. Bekhór also feels audiences are ready for a film that could be destined for cult status in Mexico. “I believe that every movie has its time,” he said. “And now is the time for us.”