Since his debut feature “Pulque Song” won the Mexican Academy Ariel Award for best documentary feature in 2003, Everardo González has been among his country and the world’s most prolific and awarded documentary filmmakers.
This year, the filmmaker was in Morelia, where “Pulque Song” was once also awarded as the year’s best documentary feature, with his upcoming feature “Wilderness” in the Michoacán festival’s pix-in-post sidebar Impulso Morelia.
Shot among the nomadic peoples of Namibia, Mexico, Australia, Pakistan, India, Mongolia, the Moroccan Sahara and the Navajo of Arizona, the feature observes life as it’s been lived for millennia by indigenous communities.
In harsh conditions and often without the benefit of a shared language, González went into the communities with just his camera, and came out with a film that stands in stark contrast to his last feature, the highly praised yet devastating “Devil’s Freedom.”
González talked about the origins of “Wilderness,” his toe dip into nomadic living and documentary as the avant-garde cinema of the digital age.
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What impact did “Drought” have on “Wilderness”?
It had a major impact because it was thanks to filming “Drought” in Australia that I received an invitation to visit visual artist Alfredo DeStefano. In principle, the collaboration was to make a behind-the-scenes of his photographic work, he primarily works in landscapes. I started working with him and on the days off I set about portraying people. My work is typically focused more on people. Finally, we realized that what wasn’t initially intended to be a movie, but rather a record of the ways of life in deserts, was turning into cinema. Alfredo agreed to become co-producer and on through editing with Paloma López Carrillo we started to make sense of the images. That’s how “Wilderness” came to be.
This documentary appears to be more meditative or observational than your last work. Certainly, less challenging psychologically. Did you need a palette cleanser after touching on the difficult themes in “Devil’s Freedom”?
You always need support. Yermo was filmed in parallel with “Devil’s Freedom.” It’s certain the introspection that deserts offer helped to see the beauty of life.
How did you select the locations to shoot? What was the criteria, or did you just choose places you wanted to know more about?
I traveled where the producer would take me. For that reason, the film is put together from a place of ignorance, without pretense. That helped in finding a voice devoid of the arrogance we bring when taking cameras into an unknown and distant world.
I imagine you lived quite differently while filming this movie. How was the experience of living a nomadic life?
It was a very physical experience. The lack of budget forced me to be the director, photographer, sound engineer and my own assistant at the same time. The nomadic life has the extraordinary condition of replicating the most primitive decisions in the history of man. The routes of nomadic life being the same as those of thousands of years ago.
What were the practical challenges of filming in such adverse conditions?
Height, cold, sandstorms, heat and distances were challenging for this film. And even though misunderstanding was the greatest of all challenges, chance gave us that this complication became the great virtue of this film.
How do you see the state of documentary film in Mexico?
The status of the Mexican documentary has been very solid for at least 10 years now. I am convinced that it is the avant-garde cinema of the digital age. It allows experimentation and freedom in the work. It shows us that cinema doesn’t necessarily belong only to geniuses.