• Flash Competition



Julio Hernandez Cordón

Already in Hasta el sol tiene manchas (FID 2012) and Se escuchan aullidos (FID 2020), Julio Hernández Cordón was playfully experimenting with films that interwove narratives, places and times. Mexico, 2022 – how does one recount its history, here and now? For this short, incisive study, he starts off with a tree. A famous – and ailing – tree; one that’s said to have lived through the centuries ever since Hernán Cortés, the conquistador, shed tears here after his single but crushing defeat by the Aztecs in 1520 during the so-called Night of Sorrows. Cordón, true to his habit of taking his protagonists and audience on unpredictable odysseys, leads us into the turmoil of this night with its many echoes. Little by little, timeframes merge, melting into one with whinnying from the distant past, masks, sharp spikes and scooters crossing swords. This haunting, infernal cycle of time and spirits, both playful and vengeful right up to the unexpected finale, evokes both the popular B-movie genre and forms of early filmmaking. In a jubilant play of roles, palimpsests and reversals, this subversive counter-history gives substance to the vanquished people of today, hence the approach that sets it in Tepito, one of the oldest and most iconic neighbourhoods, where a completely different but no less violent battle is playing out. It’s about history and reconquering through storytelling and images: grave wit in a city where violence lives on, like a legacy of the original violence of the conquest.

Nicolas Feodoroff

Early on in the film, you state that you seek to evoke the city (you live in) and its trees. You eventually narrow the focus onto a singular tree, opening up a new perspective and allowing viewers to trace back the history of colonisation. Why did you chose to describe this movement ? Why was it necessary ? 

As a kid, I used to listen to my father tell me the story of the tree from the Night of Sorrows, when the Aztecs defeated the Spanish and made them weep. I bring my friends and partners to that place nowadays when we go out cycling. Mexico City has witnessed over 700 years of history, and the people who live there don’t realize how many forgotten tales still haunt its every corner. Events have left a mark on certain sites, and built our country. When I travel to Europe, I’m moved at the idea of finding myself in places where people fought for their ideals, or that were visited by the artists I admire. Cutting down trees in Mexico is not only an attack against ecology, it is an attack against history and the rights to shade, birds, fresh air and rain in the urban context. People make out under trees. Cement was never the essence of our cities, but merely its surface. 

You chose to have a part of the film play out in the infamous and complex neighbourhood of Tepito. What motivated this decision

Tepito is the most aggressive and dodgy part of town, as well as one of the oldest. The Aztec market used to be in Tepito, made famous by its boxers, its football players and popular artists, its relation to dancing and cumbia, its self-governance, its intricate network of communities, its inclinations for popular organizing and rebellion, and its local mafia. These days, teenagers in Tepito are reknowned for their taste for reggaeton, made-in-China mopeds, robberies and drug dealing. They are claiming a city that’s been theirs for 500 years. I had the notion that if the Spanish, the Gringos, the French or the Russian invaded Mexico City, the resistance would logically stem from Tepito. So I invited them into the film. But for the purposes of the film, I wanted them to portray the invaders, simply because their brown skin was lighter. 

In your films, a large amount of space is left open for collaboration. How did you work with the protagonists ?

We shot the film without a script. The dialogue is often inspired from their own lives : I would simply ask some questions, and theirs answers became their lines. 

How did you manipulate a plurality of voice-overs and a complex OST so as to achieve different layers of storytelling ? 

I consider sound to be a form of storytelling. Words, sounds, musical pieces create atmospheres. We shot the film with very few lights, I think only two. The shooting locations and sound design create the atmosphere. I put images together, and in the editing process I recorded vocal notes on my cell phone to explain my motivations, and I was able to sharpen or suggest other aspects of the interviews.

There are a profusion of cinematographic genres and modes on display, and the film constantly switches from one to the other, sometimes in a very subtle way. You describe the end result as a sort of Asian B-movie. Why are you so interested in the intertwining of writing styles ? 

When I was younger, I was obsessed with Abbas Kiarostami’s « Where is the Friend’s Home ? » and the movies of John Woo. These films, or these styles, may originally appear to be in radical opposition to one another, but I felt that they shared a very particular poetry, a form of overcompassing melancholia. Coming into the world of cinema, I was attracted to both of these styles. And blending them together is still exciting to me today. I’ve always felt that cinema was the ideal school in which to learn anything from self-management to experimentation.

Interview by Claire Lasolle

  • Flash Competition

Technical sheet

Mexico / 2023 / 22’

Rights holder
Taller Triton
Claudio Zilleruelo Acra