×

Ángeles Cruz’s ‘Nudo Mixteco’ Impresses at San Sebastian Works in Progress

SAN SEBASTIAN —   Ángeles Cruz, one of Mexico’s highest-profile indigenous cineasts, screened for the first time a nearly-finished version of her feature debut “Nudo Mixteco” at the San Sebastian Films in Progress sidebar.

Having won two Mexican Academy Ariel Awards for her first two shorts, “Nudo Mixteco” arrived in Spain buzzing. It deftly intertwines three stories which overlap in a small village in Oaxaca’s Mixteca region during the celebrations of San Mateo.

María, a young woman working as a housekeeper in Mexico City, Esteban, a laborer who left three years ago looking for seasonal work in the north, and Toña, who now sells odds and ends in a foot-traffic underpass are all natives of the village, and head home for different reasons.

María, back for her mother’s funeral is shunned by her family for being a lesbian; only her childhood girlfriend Piedad will take her in. Esteban, a violent drunk, is shocked to learn that in his extended absence his wife and children have settled in with a new, gentler man. And Toña must return to save her daughter from sexual assault by an uncle who did the same to Toña when she was just a girl.

The film prepped for one month and shot for another in the village, employing locals as cast and crew. The major roles are played by professional actors, some of whom have worked with Cruz in the past, but all the supporting roles are filled by people from the local community.

Cruz and her producers from Madrecine, Lola Ovando and Lucía Carreras, a distinguished writer-director in her own right (“Leap Year,” “Missing Dad,” “Tamara and the Ladybug,” starring Cruz ), talked with Variety after the screening.

The cast is made up primarily of locals, but were they involved behind the scenes as well?

Ovando: It was important to us to get the community involved and working for the two months we were there [in the village] in preparation and then actually shooting. It was a top priority to provide work for as many people as possible. This was our third time shooting in this particular community; Ángeles’ shorts were shot there previously. Our original idea was to keep as many people working as possible for the duration, but the impact of a production like this alters the economic dynamics of a community of that size, and we had to respect that. As Ángeles says, we left after the shoot, but she lives there. Any problems we created were problems for her.

Being in the audience for this film one feels that’s one’s becoming part of the community. You see some things three times and the same characters in multiple settings.

Carreras: Yes, it’s like a Greek chorus that is always there. Ángeles is speaking from within, from within her own community and her own logic, as well as her internal point of view. I think that helps the audience feel involved.

Sometimes this very religious community is predictably conservative, and at others it surprises in its openness. Were there difficulties filming a progressive story like this in a traditionally conservative community?

Cruz: I think it is more difficult because lesbianism is not acknowledged in our indigenous communities. It seems like it doesn’t exist. In fact, I started writing about it when I was told that only men can be homosexual. I began to explore the idea of how machismo is so strong in this community that it can’t even be believed that female homosexuality exists. The same thing happens within our families. We are very progressive on some subjects and very closed off on others. Talk about politics, religion and sexuality divides families and divide concepts and the same happens in our communities.

The direction is very studied in this film. How much did you plan out ahead of time?

Cruz: I work hard before reaching the set, so the script very clearly indicated those parts where and how I wanted to emphasize a dramatic moment. I have been working with my photographer Carlos Correa for a long time, worked together a lot with the actors. I enjoy that process, giving myself the time to rehearse with the local and professional actors.

And your use of lensing, framing and blocking seems very deliberate…

Cruz: Yes, we wanted to photograph everything the characters were going through, including what they were feeling inside. So, it was very important for me to consider their emotions, what they feel, and transfer their fragility to the camera.

Popular on Variety

More Film

  • Rugrats. Nickeoldeon Animation Studios

    Film News Roundup: 'Rugrats' Writer David N. Weiss Honored by Animation Writers

    In today’s film news roundup, David N. Weiss is honored, Rin Tin Tin is getting a modern movie and “The Shasta Triangle” finds a home. WEISS HONORED David N. Weiss will receive the animation writing award from the Animation Writers Caucus of the Writers Guild of America West. The award will be presented by Weiss’ [...]

  • Marrakech Chief on Selecting Arthouse Films

    Marrakech Chief on Selecting Arthouse Films With a Big Stress on the Word 'Art'

    The 18th edition of the Marrakech Film Festival (Nov. 29-Dec. 7) – one of the leading cultural events in the Africa and Middle East region – will screen 98 films from 34 countries. The fest is also reinforcing its industry presence this year through the second edition of the Atlas Workshops, sponsored by Netflix, which [...]

  • Emma Stone Brad Pitt Damien Chazelle

    Paramount Lands Damien Chazelle's 'Babylon,' Dates It for Christmas 2021

    Paramount Pictures has landed the worldwide rights to Damien Chazelle’s next feature film “Babylon,” sources tell Variety. Insiders add the studio has dated the film for a Dec. 25, 2021 limited release, with plans to go wide on Jan. 7. The release date puts in prime position for another awards season run for Chazelle, who [...]

  • Chris Pratt

    Chris Pratt's Sci-Fi Film 'The Tomorrow War' Gets Release Date

    Chris Pratt’s upcoming sci-fi actioner, which was recently retitled “The Tomorrow War,” has set a Christmas Day 2020 release date. The Paramount film was formerly titled “Ghost Draft.” It follows a man (played by Pratt) who is drafted to fight a future war in which the fate of humanity may rely on his ability to [...]

  • Kim Dong-Ho of GIFF Chairman of

    Inaugural Gangneung Film Festival Pays Tribute to Pierre Rissient

    The opening ceremony of the first edition of the Gangneung International Film Festival was dominated by a tribute to the French film scout and festival selector Pierre Rissient, who died in May 2018. The new festival, 240 km from Seoul, counts former Busan festival co-founder Kim Dong-ho as its chairman and former Bucheon festival head [...]

  • 'Waves': Sterling K. Brown and Trey

    'Waves' Cast Reflects on the Making of the Tragic Family Drama

    “Waves,” a partially autobiographical film written and directed by Trey Edward Shults, is a visually arresting look at the fraying of an upper-middle class black family in South Florida in the aftermath of a violent tragedy. It examines themes of grief, domestic violence, substance abuse and modern-day pressures on kids to succeed. “Propelled by color, [...]

  • Gaston Pavlovich

    Gaston Pavlovich Talks About Producing 'The Irishman'

    Through his production company Fabrica De Cine, Gastón Pavlovich is one of the producers on Martin Scorsese’s two most recent movies: 2016’s “Silence” and 2019’s “The Irishman.” The 51-year-old native of Mexico first gained notice as an executive producer on the Tom Hanks comedy-drama “A Hologram for the King.” Pavlovich also began working with Scorsese [...]

More From Our Brands

Access exclusive content