Katina Medina Mora on What Makes a Good Filmmaker: “Honesty and a Strong Stomach”

'Sabrás Qué Hacer Conmigo'

Los Cabos International Film Festival knows how to appreciate a good chisme and the chismosos who tell them. Now in its fourth season, the festival brings together filmmakers from North America to get relaxed, sun blasted, and margaritaed in beautiful Baja California Sur. The goal of the festival is to create a nexus between Mexico, Canada, and the United States by allowing filmmakers to meet up, peek in, and snoop on each other’s current film catalogues.

Each year the festival invites a young, hip, and rising filmmaker to create a one-minute film in support of the festival that pokes fun at our need to keep up with the Joneses. The piece acts as a trailer for the organization to promote both the event and the talent it features. This year, Mexican filmmaker Katina Medina Mora was asked to create the festival’s signature visual.

Medina Mora wrote and directed her first feature film LuTo in 2013, which participated in that year’s festival. The film carefully and discerningly explores the arc of a relationship as it goes from romance to controversy over the course of two years. Her second film Contraluz was part of the festival forums in 2014. The piece (or “cineminuto”) that Medina Mora created for Los Cabos illustrates she knows where to put the camera to quickly and efficiently tell a story.

Below she tells us what brought about the piece, what has inspired her, and what kept her motivated to make cinema. It’s certainly not easy, but there’s nothing more satisfying.

When and where was your interest in film born? 
It was born when I was building scenery for the theater at school. The feeling of being behind the scenes and making something for the audience very much caught my attention. Then I began to watch films where you dive into stories that make you feel. The thought of being able to create stories and discuss what moves me seemed magical.

How did you come up with the idea for the cineminuto?
The conditions I was given was that it should be something between neighbors and that Los Cabos should appear in the story. The first thing that occurred to me was this​ ​therapeutic space where you could feel like you’re in Los Cabos, even though you’re in the city, and how different women found that space in order to relax. Then the idea of the confused husband emerged as a way to add a comedic element.

What are some obstacles for women in the world of cinema in Mexico? Advantages?
I think it is equally difficult to make films, whether [you’re] male or female. Perhaps I have been fortunate to meet people who have believed in me and have come aboard my projects, so I could not speak of an obstacle beyond [the one] that both women and men know: filmmaking is not easy. And I think now we have some advantages – there are funds solely for female directors and certain projects that seek that female sensibility.

You’ve been building your career for some time. Now that you’re at the wheel, which of the lessons that you have learned still resonates with you?
It has been difficult and you often want to give up, but someone once told me that this race is based on resistance, not speed, and that made me understand that it requires a lot of patience and a lot of work.

What are the tools – not physical, not material – that an individual needs to be a good filmmaker?
I think honesty and a strong stomach is needed. Be very clear about why you’re doing this and do it for you, not for anyone else.

Los Cabos International Film Festival runs November 11 – 15, 2015.