Heriberto Acosta’s sun-dappled road trip movie Cigüeñas (Storks) looks familiar. The film fits right in to a truly Mexican genre that has given us gems like Y tu mamá también, Güeros and Camino a Marte. It follows a boy and girl hitting the road towards Lake Chapala on a beautiful morning. They spend the day together trying to find a place to swim – but this is far from a dreamy romance on the road. Young Claudia (Jenny RVC) and Arturo (Jesuso López) aren’t a couple. She’s carrying someone else’s child, and he drinks himself to oblivion to avoid thinking about his budding desire for other men. Plus: the goal of the trip is to get Claudia to a foreign doctor who’s said to help girls in her condition.
Acosta came up with the idea for Cigüeñas when he and his wife experienced one of the worst days of their life together. While expecting their first child, Acosta’s wife suffered a spontaneous miscarriage. Acosta drove them to the hospital, but before doctors would treat her they demanded that his wife fill out a bunch of paperwork and take all sorts of exams, with little regard for her wellbeing. “That’s when we realized that they weren’t treating us as patients,” he shared at a Q&A following the world premiere of his film at Los Cabos International Film Festival. “They were treating us as criminals. They thought the miscarriage was an induced abortion.”
The experience opened Acosta’s eyes to the way the state treats women’s reproductive choices. “Laws in our state of Jalisco say that abortion is a crime,” he continued. “Women don’t have the choice as to whether they want to continue their pregnancies. Moreover, the law states that it’ll be prosecuted as a crime.”
The experience moved him to make a movie. But rather than merely rehash his own story, he dreamed up film about a young woman who’s slowly finding who she is and what she wants out of life. Shuttling between flashbacks in the claustrophobic urban world of their day jobs and the wide open spaces when they’re on the road, Cigüeñas places Claudia’s choice front and center. Pairing her with a young man questioning his own sexuality, one who wears a feather in his earring and cruises bars for blow jobs, was a no-brainer. He wanted the film to speak to the messiness of human sexuality. Recruiting first time actors and producing the film independently, Acosta wanted to create a story about abortion that didn’t feel exploitative nor controversial. He aimed to steer clear of melodrama, ending up with an indie dramedy that he hopes will spark more open conversations about women’s reproductive health in Mexico.
Cigüeñas played as part of Los Cabos International Film Festival