It may seem like there are a lot of parallels between film and theater – and there are – but there’s still something fundamentally different about the two media. Film can bounce chaotically through time and space, and transmits its narratives through primarily visual means. Theater, on the other hand, is limited to the space of the stage, and uses the spoken word and physical movement of actors as its primary mode of expression. So even though both media use actors, directors, and similarly formatted texts, the challenge of adapting theater to the screen is daunting. At best, you get a masterpiece like Elia Kazan’s adaptation of A Streetcar Named Desire; at worst, you get the equivalent of putting a few DSLRs around the stage during a live performance.
So imagine the challenge Mexican director Jack Zagha Kababie faced when he decided to adapt Spanish playwright David Desola’s hit play Almacenados (Warehoused) for the big screen. Two characters of differing ages, one empty warehouse, dead time, and the development of an unlikely friendship: sounds like great theater, but an easy recipe for a stiff, lifeless film. But incredibly, Zagha rose to the challenge, and used space and atmosphere to his advantage in telling this story of an older worker on the verge of retirement who slowly befriends his young trainee.
Before winning the México Primero Art Kingdom Award at the most recent edition of the Los Cabos International Film Festival, the director and actors sat down for a chat with audiences and had some pretty enlightening things to say. Here are the highlights.
On The Challenges of Simplicity
“What I’d like to get across is that each of our lives is important, and we can make a difference.”
What might have seemed really simple – two people in a warehouse – turned into one of the most complicated films for everyone who was involved. Not just the actors – who have nowhere to hide: any error, any detail where they’re out of tone, is going to be amplified – but also for the production. We said “any warehouse,” but it took us months to find the right space, and even then, it wasn’t it exactly how we wanted it. We had to build things inside, each time you open the door and the curtain there’s a green screen because on the other side there’s something that didn’t work for us. And we wanted the light to hit in such a way to feel the passage of time; we wanted columns to feel the depth. It was a challenge for everyone: cinematography, art direction. It looks like there’s not much there, but there are very specific elements that make you feel the emptiness. And I think that obligated us to do the absolute best we could.
On The Tragedy of Untapped Potential
The film is about wasting time when we don’t realize the talent we have, the potential we have, everything that we could become. What I’d like to get across is that each of our lives is important, and we can make a difference. How much talent out there is wasted on useless jobs, jobs that make no sense. And yes, there is a problem with opportunities, there is a lack of opportunity, but there is a problem of not knowing ourselves enough, not looking inside of ourselves and recognizing what we’re good at, what we truly want to do, and dedicate ourselves to it with hard work, with dedication, and find the best in ourselves.
On How It’s Never Too Late
“As long as we have time, we have life.”
As long as we have time, we have life. In some way, between the characters in Almacenados, there is an arc. The one who starts out as your competition, who you try to brush aside, who you’re unwelcoming to, turns into a friend. It turns into a father-son type of relationship. In a way, it ends with hope. So, the message is that it’s never too late to go on with life and do what one truly loves. I always mention the example of José Carlos, who turned 81 during shooting, and to make a film like this at that age…
81-Year-Old Actor José Carlos Ruiz on Never Retiring
In a way, I think that retiring is beginning to die, because after working 30, 40, 50 years and being in your job and with your family, all of a sudden the next day you have nothing. I actually have an uncle who died one day after he retired. All my life I’ve been doing features, TV, cinema, and I’ve gotten many awards, but for me the best award I can get is to be able to continue working, to get called for another job.