There’s no blueprint for the creative process. Even the best laid plans take unexpected twists and turns on their way to the final product, and those left-field moments are often what make a piece of art work. In our Unscripted video series, we link up with musicians, digital artists, and film directors to get a peek at their process and the unexpected surprises that go into making their work.
Mexican director Fernando Frías aims to create films that exist somewhere between the experienced and the invented. His films take documentary elements of real people and locations and injects them with philosophy, art, and music to shape the visual narrative into something more poetic and personal. It is a style that draws on the auteurism of early European art house films while merging it with more contemporary sounds and light tropes to be at once retrospective and strikingly contemporary.
Frías first came to attention with 2008’s Calentamiento local, whose Pacific beach location backdropped a quasi-fictitious take on “the animal behavior and descriptive poetry which narrates and celebrates the universality of life’s cycles and rituals.” That was followed in 2012 by Rezeta, a more recognizably dramatic tale of Mexico City-set relationship between a young Albanian woman new to the country – and its culture – and a local musician. The film snapped up the Jury Award for Narrative Feature at 2014’s Slamdance Film Festival.
Frías’ latest project is the intriguingly-titled Jimigration, scheduled for 2016 and likely to be covered in detail on these very pages. In the meantime, click play on the video above for a sample of the filmmaker’s work, whose arresting imagery underlies his reflective voiceover on his artistic values. Great soundtrack too.
On Growing up Surrounded by Cinema
“I would skip school a lot to go to the Cineteca Nacional and little by little I discovered filmmakers who left a huge impression on me.”
I grew up watching films with my dad. He’s a retired lawyer but also a big cinephile who at some point knew where to find the hardest-to-get copies of cult and arthouse films from around the globe. I am talking of course about pirated copies. He knew all the right vendors and my house was full of them, literally full…There’s also the visual part. Many years ago, I inherited an old 35mm Leica camera and a super 8mm camera and projector from my mom’s dad, and ever since I have been crazy about photography and obsolete technology.
I also grew up traveling a lot because my mother worked for an airline, so I was very intrigued by cultural differences as a child. I believe all this together is what somehow formed me at that early stage. Then I would skip school a lot to go to the Cineteca Nacional [in Mexico City] and little by little I discovered filmmakers who left a huge impression on me. I had no doubt that film was what I would be doing, or trying to do.
On How Winning Awards Doesn’t Always Mean Instant Success
This film [Rezeta] has meant such a long process for me. And I wouldn’t mind if I had spent all this time working on the project, but having to wait is really a pain. Really. It has been years since I shot it and only last month we got a small distribution deal for a couple of art house theaters in Mexico. Now we are on a digital platform called CinemaUNO.
On Merging Reality and Fiction
“Film has become this ultra competitive micro referential world where people try really hard to be original and shit.”
Each project is different but so far all of my projects, fiction or documentary, have strong elements of one another. I would like to do some pure documentary and pure fictional drama but often I find something real that works better than what I could have designed or written in the case of fiction and vice versa. Working on documentary you have to think of the story as if it was something invented, or at least I do.
On Why Breaking the Rules Doesn’t Make You Original
All of the time people are breaking the rules just for the fun of it, which I have nothing against, of course. Actually I believe good and necessary things come from it. But at the same time, film has become (or maybe always has been) this ultra competitive micro referential world where people try really hard to be original and shit, so the motivations for exploring these limits should be always looked upon.
On Directors Who Are Using Technology to Push the Limits of Filmmaking
“I am letting things flow and thinking [about] alternative projects or other routes to make films.”
As for filmmakers, I like those who have done it not on a regular basis, but when the time calls for it. I would mention the editing on Costa Gavras’ Z, or the way Xavier Dolan worked around the aspect ratio in Mommy, like nowadays where people are shooting videos vertically with their phones. There’s also this film Tangerine, which was shot on an iPhone and I’ve only heard great stuff so I really want to check it out.
On Not Relying on Financiers to Get Films Made
There’s a project I have been dying to do. It has to do with Mexicans, with music, with counterculture. At this point it has been tricky because it’s complicated subject matter and it needs to be an international coproduction, so in spite of having support from great institutions, we haven’t secured all the financing yet. Right now, I am letting things flow and thinking [about] alternative projects or other routes to make films. Most of my ideas are born from the perspective of not having to wait so much, so I’m thinking about doing something simpler while the other big project becomes a reality.