One of the buzz films at Visions Du Reel, Mexican filmmaker Laura Plancarte’s Montana-set “Non Western” explores the romantic journey of Thaddeus, a Cheyenne native, and Nanci, a Caucasian, and the challenges their interracial union faces. Through them, Plancarte explores the chains of oppression that persist from one generation to another.
Thaddeus and Nanci were all set to travel to Visions du Reel in Switzerland when the coronavirus pandemic scuttled those plans, said Plancarte, who has lived in London for the past 11 years since winning a grant from BNP Paribas in recognition of her career as an artist.
She met the couple while making her previous film, the acclaimed “Hermanos,” when filming a main character’s return to Montana. “I fell in love not only with the landscapes, but with the people,” she said, noting the similarities in her Mexican culture and that of Native Americans. “Ours are both colonized cultures,” she asserted.
Despite their dissimilar cultures and contrasting views on gender roles, Thaddeus and Nanci find familiar ground in their respective pasts. Both were adopted as teenagers by families of different ethnicities: Thaddeus, a military veteran, by a white Christian family and Nanci, now a PhD lecturer, by the Lakota tribe.
“Their story tells us that in this polarized world, we can live together and share the same space despite our different points of view,” she said.
Plancarte discussed further details with Variety about her third documentary feature:
What is it about the story of Thaddeus and Nanci that drew you to them?
I was drawn to their courage and strength. I think they are contemporary real heroes, not idealized figures that our society sometimes creates to mitigate anxiety. Both come from very difficult backgrounds and not only have they survived their history, but they are people who add to their community. Both of them are cultural travelers, they walk in two worlds. I’m a person who is also misplaced and I understand the richness of being able to live in different worlds, but I also understand the isolation that that brings and the questions that it provokes in others.
How did you get financing for the film? Have you secured theatrical distribution?
In the initial stage, I travelled to Montana with my camera and my audio kit so I could make a teaser of the film I saw in my head. Once I had something to show, I approached investors who had believed in my previous films and they decided to give me my seed money because they were happy with the result that my previous film “Hermanos” had, being acquired by Prime Video Direct and by broadcasters. Afterwards TVUnam came on board as a co-producer of the film and Iván Trujillo came on board as executive producer. Iván has been a great support, colleague and friend throughout the realization of all of my films, I have learned a lot by working with him.
When we were in production, the Montana Film Office came on board and we won the Big Sky Grant. It’s a U.K., Mexico and U.S. co-production.
We are in the process of planning the strategy for the film’s distribution and we are hoping to have a theatrical release in the U.S. and in Mexico. Maybe we’ll secure a theatrical release in some European countries as well, as we have had an incredible response from European film festivals like Visions du Réel where the film is having its world premiere.
What themes are you most attracted to and is this prevalent in all your films?
I have always been attracted to portraying different angles of a person or a story. I think our reality is created by tones, colors and shades, and I think there is almost no black & white, if any. Yet, many times our world is promoted or shown to us in a very Manichean way, and we also sometimes like to think of ourselves in that way: Are we good or are we bad? I understand that we crave simplicity to explain our nature and world but I’m a strong believer that situations, people, and relationships are complex. I’m also fascinated with human behavior, I like to explore why we choose what we choose, what makes us decide between one thing or another. I find it fascinating because in most cases, what triggers the decision has nothing to do with the actual decision.
What are you working on next?
I’m exploring making a feature film with first time actors. I met an incredible group of teenagers from different ethnicities, who know that living is fighting but that it’s worth it! They are an incredible luminous powerful bunch that regardless of their difficult backstories and context, are thriving. I just feel very uplifted by them and I think it’s going to be a great adventure! I decided to write a sort of script based on their life, so it’s something familiar to them, but that we all feel comfortable with, and not to make a straight forward documentary because they are too young. At the end, a documentary exposes the life of people regardless of all the protective measures that a filmmaker can take. I’m really looking forward to this new project and for sure it’s going to be challenging because I haven’t worked with teenagers before, but I’m sure it’s going to be wonderful!
Due to the actual lockdown, I’m also exploring making something that brings me back to my roots as a video artist, to express what we are all living, that it’s not a film made on Zoom or Skype.