Inspired by the stories young kids told him about working with drug cartels during his time as a freelance journalist in Veracruz, Mexico, filmmaker Yamil Quintana said he couldn’t get their words out of his head. He had to make a film about it. In his short narrative Aire Quemado (Winds of Furnace), Quintana follows an innocent young boy who has been recruited along with two other kids to discard the dead bodies of cartel victims.
During an interview with Remezcla, Quintana talked about a couple of the stories he heard that inspired his short film and how this film is influencing his next project.
Winds of Furnace plays at the Tribeca Film Festival April 18 at 8:30pm and April 20 at 4:30pm. A final screening can be seen April 23 at 5:30pm.
What are some of the stories you heard as a journalist that inspired this film?
I had contact with a boy who was a drug dealer, mostly in nightclubs. We became friends and suddenly he just disappeared. The last thing he said was that someone offered him a job as a corpse dumper for a local cartel. Sometime later, people said he was murdered. There was another boy who had escaped from the north side of the country to rebuild his life. At first he was very quiet, [but] little by little he told me he was a sicario (hitman). For me it was very shocking to hear this. At the time, [these boys] were 12 and 15 years old and they had done terrible things.
What did hearing these stories tell you about the city you were working in?
When we see children and adolescents participating in criminal organizations [and] committing these acts of violence, there has to be something seriously wrong in society. It’s very sad that violence sometimes seems to become normal. When I told the story to my producer (Celia Iturriaga) and my cinematographer Gerardo Barroso, they soon began to commit to this, as well as the rest of the crew. Filming a story like this was not easy. I always felt that the voices and memories of the real guys were floating around the set, like energy in the common atmosphere.
Although we don’t know too much about the boys, did you as a storyteller create your own narrative for them during pre-production?
My intention was to focus on Santiago, the youngest one. He lives with his grandmother, with whom he has a relationship of love and respect that is not necessarily expressed through words but silence and stare. I think the energy of these three boys was enough for the narrative. For me, that grandmother means a space and opportunity for the audience to draw their own conclusions, like a path towards intimacy behind disaster.
Would this short film be something you’d like to expand into a feature film one day?
I think stories create their own ghosts. They surely visit us in the future sometimes in a way that we don’t even realize. Memory is something very interesting. I’m interested in stories that come from testimonies and experiences of real life. I’m currently working on a feature film script about a group of friends who steal gasoline on the outskirts of a rural town. These guys are passionate about B-movies from the eighties. They live in a world of fantastic imagination and true friendship. Eventually crimes will take importance, until a couple of detectives begin to look for them. All this happens at the Mexican tropics back in the nineties, in a region where I come from, called the Cuenca of Papaloapan located between the state of Oaxaca and Veracruz. So, yes, there is some [inspiration] taken from Winds of Furnace [in my next film].
Are there any filmmakers that inspire your own style?
I love telling stories and I like to think that my references are based on several sources, not just cinema. Every film has its own voice and we must learn to listen to it. Some stories scream at you very loud and sometimes they whisper in your ear. I am amazed by the work of Wim Wenders, Seijun Suzuki, Koji Wakamatsu, Tomás Gutiérrez Alea, Frederick Wiseman, Emir Kusturica, Chris Marker and some others. I don’t know if their work is in a way inside mine. Those are big names! I’m just a learner.
Is there a specific message about violence you hope this film bring to light?
One of the reasons why I decided to work on this subject was the fact that those who were in the middle [of this story] were boys, almost children. Life has forced them to grow faster and through very hard experiences. I think we are all exposed to graphic violence in the newspapers, but sometimes we don’t even think about what and who’s behind that.
The Tribeca Film Festival runs from April 13 – 24, 2016. We partnered with Tribeca to give you a behind-the-scenes look at the Latino talent at this year’s fest. Follow our coverage on remezcla.com and tribecafilm.com.