They say every story has been told a thousand times, but Greek tragedy never tackled the subject of blood-trafficking Mexico City skater kids. Of course, Julio Hernández Cordón’s latest feature, Te prometo anarquía (I Promise You Anarchy), is ultimately about love, friendship, betrayal, and all of those timeless themes, but it all takes place in a sordid world of urban adolescence few storytellers have dared venture into.
The follow-up to his equally original DIY docufiction phenom, Marimbas del infierno (Marimbas from Hell), Te prometo anarquía follows two close friends and sometime lovers as they skate through DF selling black market blood, and dealing with the emotional complications of a delicate love triangle. Things then turn deadly serious when a group of blood donors they’re asked to round up for some shady underworld figures mysteriously disappears.
The film was executed in Hernández Cordón’s signature deadpan style, using non-professional actors, and filmed with a DIY punk-rock spirit that permeates each frame. After premiering at the prestigious Locarno Film Festival, Te prometo moved on to Toronto, San Sebastián, and ultimately made its way back to Mexico in almost back-to-back screenings at Morelia and Los Cabos last month. As part of our coverage of the Los Cabos International Film Festival, we caught an intimate Q&A with Hernández Cordón and Ashauri López (a member of the cast) following a screening of the film (which ended up picking up two awards at the Los Cabos.) Topics ranged from casting on Facebook to the perils of intimacy, and in the end, it was an eye-opening look into the creative process of one of Latin America’s most promising young directors.
Here are some highlights from the Q&A with the director and cast.
On Casting in the Age of Social Media
“I like to mix fiction with documentary. I want my stories to feel as real as possible.”
I found the principal actors on Facebook; they’re not professionals. A friend of mine sent me profiles of different kids who skate. Then I did the scouting based on the videos and photos they post on their Facebook pages. Once I selected him, I asked Pelukaz about his friends, and the rest of the kids who skate are made up of his friends. Then I found Ashauri thanks to the same friend who sent me the profiles of the skaters. He had the habit of putting up a lot of music from Ashauri, or musicalized poems. Obviously I heard them and I was fascinated, so I decided I’d love to use one of his pieces. Then I thought it would be even better if he acted. For me, the fact that Ashauri appears in the film is a sort of homage to all the people who I admire, who believe in the DIY ethic, because Ashauri publishes through social media and the Internet. He’s a real punk rock type of guy.
On Keeping Things Naturalistic
I like to mix fiction with documentary. It’s not something that I invented – it’s been around since the origins of film – but I want my stories to feel as real as possible. I don’t ask my actors to speak correctly. On the contrary, they use a lot of unnecessary words, they get tongue tied. I’m happy because it’s how people speak in everyday life. In fact, when people talk to me correctly, I get worried. I figure it’s a politician or some kind of salesman. So I like that the dialogues are dirty – they contradict themselves, change the subject constantly. I look for naturalism, even though there are people who criticize naturalism in film. But I think there are different ways to tell stories, and that’s what I focus on.
On Making a Movie About Skateboarding Vampires
I originally wanted to do a sort of film noir, but not stick so closely the genre. So I liked the idea of making a film about kids who skated because I wanted to show Mexico City in a much more organic way, to see them moving through the city and the streets. On the other hand, the fact that they were skaters made them sort of human vampires…they traffic blood, and the skateboards make them sort of float through the city.
And the blood trafficking thing happened by chance. Initially they were going to traffic cocaine, which seemed sort of cliché. So in a moment of creative crisis, I googled the word “blood” and I started seeing all of these results about illegal blood trafficking in the states of Veracruz, Querétaro, and Campeche. Then I also found out that when the narcos do their operations, they are always accompanied by secret ambulances inside Suburbans that they use to transport their wounded.
On Getting Actors to Do What You Tell Them
“In a moment of creative crisis, I googled the word “blood” and I started seeing all of these results about illegal blood trafficking.”
I’ve always loved working with non-professional actors. I studied at the CCC [Centro de Capacitación Cinematográfica] and in our first shorts we had the chance to work with high-profile actors, and it was a nightmare having them on the set. They didn’t allow themselves to be directed, and a lot of other things. So I started working with non-professional actors because I really like the tradition of Italian neo-realism, and most of the films I like have that same texture.
Obviously, I know that there are all sorts of different methods, and maybe in the future I will work with professional actors. But for now I’m comfortable with non-professionals. They never ask you “Why?” They just do what you tell them. And the other thing is that they’re new faces. You see the film and you’re not thinking it’s an actor. It’s another element that invites you to think that what you’re seeing is somehow real. Obviously it has its limitations, because you can’t ask [for] certain tones or levels of acting from non-professionals. So in a way, it’s also a limitation.
On Love, Betrayal, and Moving On
When your heart’s been broken, the person who broke it stays in your mind 24 hours a day, and you can’t get rid of him. As much as you try to forget about that person, it’s as though he were at your side at all times. So this film is about someone who is in love and can’t move on. It’s ultimately a film about a betrayal – they betray each other…I think in a relationship there’s always one who gives more, and one who gives less…Johnny is the tough one, quote unquote, because he’s really the fragile one, but he’s more street. Miguel is socially much more limited with his emotions, more conservative, which is what tends to happen.