INTERVIEW – TODA LA LUZ QUE PODEMOS VER
The historical and geographical contexts seem crucial in your film. Would you care to comment on each of them?
The story takes place on the day before the war, an imaginary historical time when the beginning and the end meet, where the ouroboros eats its rattle.
The film is about two love stories that unfold between two times: a woman runs to the forest with her lover on the last day of New Spain; a woman holds a wake at the grave of a General who was murdered the day before the Revolution. These love stories are set in the territory between Popocatépetl and Iztaccíhuatl, the volcano lovers in the Valley of Mexico. The story told by the characters is not that of the tragic love of princess Iztaccíhuatl and warrior Popocatépetl, but about other love stories from this land of lovers and warriors. The characters are driven by the ghosts of the mythical, historical and geographical context, they embody them. In Toda la luz que podemos ver, the heroes and martyrs of History are off-screen. What we see are lovers wandering through the landscape, women and men who are in love and subjected to a third time that transcends them: the time of volcanoes, the time of the Earth.
Can you clarify what the characters embody?
They are figures of poetry and history, living within us. The spirits of the lovers who created this landscape and who are wandering among volcanoes, driven by the question: What does it take for a bed to be considered a country? Rosario is a woman who is in love with a General who has been murdered and she decides to join the Revolution; Arturo is a peasant who finds her; Maria is a woman who escapes to the woods with her lover, El Toro, on the day of her wedding to El Bandido, a devil who is tracking them down. The warrior and the princess from the myth transcend the characters in various ways: Rosario as Popocatépetl is keeping vigil over her lover’s grave, Maria as Iztaccíhuatl runs away to meet her own lover. Tezcatlipoca, the smoking mirror that makes Iztaccíhuatl believe that her lover died in combat, thus leading her to her death, appears in fiction through its tezcatl (obsidian mirror), a meeting that produces breaches in the stories and eventually brings them to an end. The characters were inspired by the statue that is seen at the beginning of the film: a woman made of bronze, with a city on its head, next to the cathedral of Mexico City, on Templo Mayor.
The writing of the film clearly falls within the scope of an epic tradition of cinema that is rarely seen today. Any comment on that?
We searched for a story within the interstices of the epic, like the year Ulysses spends crying and making love in Circe’s castle, when he has forgotten about Ithaca. We wanted to create a romantic epic out of precariousness, as a political act. We believe, like Glauber Rocha, that “the real issue is to create out of one’s own shortcomings” and in spite of them. And in the same vein: “epic as poetic practice that sparks off revolutionary impulse”. We wanted to draw portraits of heroes who aren’t heroes, of lovers who aren’t protagonists in History, but who are swayed by it, inspired by the great epic films and by Raúl Zurita’s poetry, epics of light and landscape. Ezra Pound said that the epic is a poem that includes history, and just like Zurita, he explored Dante’s Divine Comedy from his personal circumstances, sharing the quest for a paradisiacal vision, a vision of heaven, a vision of Beatriz. The film is a collective pilgrimage to another place, to another vision, hoping that upon arrival, a revolutionary song will come out. Mexican cinema was born out of the Revolution, and as such it has told great stories of thriving and dying loves, tales of war that laid the foundations for the imagination of the nation. To fight against that imagination, we believe that we must question it on its own territory.
The film is awe-inspiring, yet it doesn’t hide its own lack of resources. How were the production conditions like?
It’s an imperfect epic, one that reflects our process of growing and learning. It’s a film produced by a group of twelve friends learning how to make cinema together. Collectively we explored this landscape, these characters and these myths, over the course of three years with our own resources (costumes, two lights, audio recorder, friends’ cars to get to the location. Most of the time, five of us were shooting, and once we were eight. The first shooting phase lasted for ten days, followed by several periods of two to four days of shooting, for three years, as we wrote new scenes or gathered some money. All in all, we shot for thirty-two days. We filmed with a Panasonic P2 camera borrowed from a friend, my family provided the food, many friends offered to help, and the whole project was self-financed with great difficulty, partly thanks to a prize we won for out first feature film, Ruinas tu reino. Postproduction was financed via a loan and crowdfunding.
You are twenty-three. Can you tell us about your background, your previous work, and your next projects?
I have studied cinema for a few years in Buenos Aires. In 2014, together with Jesús Núñez and Salvados Amores, we founded the Ríos de Nueva cooperative, to search for new ways to make films in Mexico. Toda la luz que podemos ver is our second feature film. We are currently developing Diarios fílmicos, a documentary on milpa Maya [a traditional farming system that involves the companion-plating of three main crops, T.N.], in collaboration with the U kúuchil k’ Ch’i’ibalo’on Community Centre in Carrillo Puerto, Quintana Roo, as well as a historical fiction in my grand-mother’s village, Malinaltenango, in the state of Mexico. All of these projects embrace the underlying quest for the Light and the old filmic endeavours about Faith. In 2018, Cat de Almeida and I created a workshop to introduce children from Mexican rural areas to experimental cinema. We are currently based in Chacchoben, Quintana Roo, where we keep developing and searching for new forms of cinema, related to play, dance, poetry and offering. This year, I have begun to coordinate a film production training programme set up by the government for the communities of Quintana Roo, whose participants will be invited to tell their own stories through documentary and non-fiction films.
Interview by Cyril Neyrat