There’s already been a lot of buzz around Mexican director Carlos Matsuo’s very DIY exploration of Tijuana’s very DIY music scene, but few would have expected to see it on a stage as big as the Guadalajara International Film Festival (known as FICG for its Spanish initials). Sure enough, as part of the festival’s Son de Cine sidebar dedicated to the intersection of music and film, Basura: San Pedro El Cortez will have its FICG premiere on Monday evening.
In advance of the screening, I took the opportunity to ask Mr. Matsuo a little bit about the the film. Here’s what he said.
Tell me a little bit about your background. Where are you from? How did you get into film? What have you done previously?
I’m from Tijuana, and I started out doing a few different things: I did the music for a documentary (Soy Lolita), wrote essays for a magazine (Clinika) and even tried to write science fiction (Desde Aqui Se Ve El Futuro). Out of all this, I ended up doing what I’ve always felt inclined toward, which is documenting. When I was young I would record the radio with cassette tapes. Not just songs, but hours on end, with commercials and everything. What I wanted was to capture what I was feeling in that moment through what I was hearing. I’m basically doing the same thing now.
How do you think growing up in a place like Tijuana has shaped you as an artist?
I think something that I’ve taken out of living here, which I like, is that the society isn’t very divided. Since the city wasn’t correctly planned, there isn’t a clear distinction between neighborhoods. Not even the best areas of Tijuana have streets with no potholes. I think this is why, as much as one wants to believe in “Innovative Tijuana”, we are brought back to reality just by seeing the streets and the public transportation. Here we’re not allowed to fool ourselves even for one second into thinking that in Mexico life is like it is San Pedro Garza García or Santa Fé.
What makes the cultural scene in Tijuana different from a bigger city like Mexico City?
Tijuana is still a ranch. People only pay a cover charge if Macaulay Culkin comes to town. But the thing is, it’s a tough crowd. People have very real tastes, and don’t pretend or try to look for something that’s not here. That’s why, before anywhere else, El Muerto was being sold in the parks and informal markets. That’s how the people from Tijuana showed their gratitude.
As for Basura, how did you come across the subject matter? What’s your personal relationship with it?
In 2010, I had a garage-surf band with the ex-guitarist of Calafia Puta that was called Donde Está La Playa. That’s how I came to know about San Pedro. That whole year I started getting much more into the local scene. The interesting thing was that the local scene was generating attention outside of Tijuana, and blogs like Club Fonograma grew interested in everything that was going on here. Los Macuanos and María y José left, and things went really well for them. San Pedro decided to stay and see how things played out.
Why do you think it’s important to tell this story?
It’s important because it’s an archive of things that are happening right now in music. And, although it’s obviously not everything that’s out there, it more or less gets the idea across in an honest way with no ulterior motives. The production was independent, just like the scene that’s covered in the documentary, or the initiatives of Nrmal or AMF, which, much like Waco or Wird, do things entirely on their own and with a minimal support that allows them to maintain creative control. Or like wmwmwm, an internet radio station based in DF (Mexico City) that has programming based out of the bedrooms of each DJ. It’s about contributing in the way you best know how.
What did you want to show or say with this documentary?
The possibilities of a scene in a corrupt place with no industry – basura. That, while a bunch of people talk about a cultural renaissance, it seems the only way to be successful here is by getting out. What I want to show is the consequence of making a living through music in a place whose potential has an expiration date.
How has the response to the documentary been so far?
It’s been very interesting. In DF it screened on a wall at Real Under – super DIY – and had a great response. I’m conscious that it has its faults, but I think that the style of the documentary reflects the same rawness of its content.
How does it feel to have a platform like the FICG for your work?
It seems incredible that such a homemade film is going to be played at the festival, and at Cinépolis nonetheless. The whole production was very low-budget, in reality there was no budget. I just did it for fun. It feels good that it’s been appreciated.
What’s the next step for Basura?
I plan to keep showing it around and then upload it to the internet and let it spread.
What are your plans for the future?
I have a web series that’s about to come out that includes jam-sessions by artists and bands like Ases Falsos, Santos, Matilda Manzana, Sanidad Mental, White Ninja and others. And, this month I’m going to shoot a documentary about the founding of Baja California.