The Cannes Film Festival is more than glamorous red carpets and glittering screenings of auteur films. Starting in 1959, the Marché du Film has functioned as a worldwide film market that allows filmmakers and industry people to network. Stretched across 34 screening rooms and with over 10,000 annual participants, it’s a great chance for aspiring directors to shop around their films.
This year, as part of the Los Cabos Goes to Cannes initiative, the Los Cabos International Film Festival will be showcasing four Mexican films at the 2016 Marché du Film in various states of post-production. Directors and producers will present their features which were chosen by the Industria arm of the Mexican film festival. Headed to Cannes are Sebastián Hiriart’s Carroña, the omnibus film La habitación (which includes segments by Carlos Carrera and Natalia Beristáin), Ricardo Silva and Juliana Pastrana’s William, el nuevo maestro del judo, and Astrid Rondero’s Los días más oscuros de nosotras (The Darkest Days of Us).
We talked to Astrid Rondero about her feature film debut which centers on a woman whose return to her native Tijuana after 25 years reawakens painful memories she thought she’d left behind. After spending years as a script supervisor and funding her short films (including 2011’s En aguas quietas) from those odd film crew jobs, the director is ready to make waves with The Darkest Days of Us.
UPDATE 11/7/2017: Astrid Rondero’s completed film will screen at the 2017 Los Cabos Film Festival.
When did you first realize you wanted to be a film director?
“I’m interested also in talking about my experience as a woman in a world full of disparities and contradictions.”
My grandmother was a concert pianist and ever since I was a child I was fascinated by her playing. Something extraordinary happened when she played. She used to say that art was magical. I wanted to be like her. However, at the piano, I always felt secretly inadequate. I realized soon that movies, just watching them, made me feel special and safe. I was twelve years old when I was finally able to see Jane Campion’s The Piano. It took me a while to get a hold of it, because I was underage; back in those days I spent my days reading and watching what I wasn’t allowed to. When I saw the movie I immediately knew that I wanted to tell stories and become a filmmaker. Being on set, no matter what position, brings back that magic my grandmother knew about.
What informs your filmmaking?
I’m a graduate of CUEC, The National University film school and with my graduation short film En aguas quietas (In Still Waters) I discovered the kind of cinema I wanted to make: I like to travel between the real world and the inner world of the characters, because I believe that in the middle of this fluctuation is where our lives exist. I’m interested also in talking about my experience as a woman in a world full of disparities and contradictions. It’s been a surprise for me to discover that even if you speak from a very personal view you can connect with many different people—as long as you are true to your own voice. I recently shot my first feature The darkest days of us funded by FOPROCINE and with the support of the Tribeca Film Institute. We are currently in post-production. At the same time, I’m developing my new feature, Roar a coming of age film in the times of a Mexico torn [apart] by war.
Which directors inspire you?
“I started to think about a story for my first feature and Tijuana returned to me, with its powerful landscapes, its night, its gringos and its women.”
Jane Campion is definitely one of my favorite directors. Her work is a clear example that cinema needs female voices. Erich Von Stroheim is another one of my favorites, his cinema was so daring and sadly so unlucky. Also: Agnès Varda, Nicholas Roeg, Mijail Kalatózov, Billy Wilder, Robert Aldrich, Douglas Sirk, Robert Altman.
Where did the idea for The darkest days of us come from?
The Darkest Days of Us is an idea that was born after my first stay in Tijuana. I was a script supervisor of a film about migration. Something important changed within me on that trip and I simply couldn’t take Tijuana out of my head. I promised myself that I would go back. Far and away, I started to think about a story for my first feature and Tijuana returned to me, with its powerful landscapes, its night, its gringos and its women. Especially the women, the crudeness with which Tijuana expresses the gender disparity and violence that remains alive in our culture. I knew that the story I wanted to tell was related to the emotions that Tijuana awoke in me and the story had to speak about women caught in this border town atmosphere, an atmosphere just as troubling as it is beautiful. The title of the film arrived before this even happened and it has to do with the shared experiences of the characters. They are sisters in arms, not in a literal sense, because they are very different and they remain practically strangers throughout the movie. The unexplainable closeness that emerges between them has to do with their most cherished memories that finally become destiny.
Heading to Cannes must be exciting! What are you most looking forward to?
Each time we receive good news we see it as an opportunity to get better and keep on doing what we love. I’m really happy to be able to attend the Cannes Film Market with my production company Enaguas Cine. We founded this company as a way of developing and producing the projects we feel passionate about and with the fullest freedom. We are deeply grateful to Los Cabos Film Festival for supporting this film ever since the development stage. Now, the Los Cabos Goes to Cannes program is a great opportunity to meet possible partners that can collaborate with us in this project or in others to come.