Luisa is 25-years-old and fighting a heroin addiction. Having escaped the city, she finds herself seeking repose in a fading beach resort that rests on the lush seaside hills of Veracruz, Mexico. Inhabitants and conversations are sparse, but Luisa finds a quiet companionship with 50-year-old local Salomon, an alcoholic widower who spends his days smoking marijuana.
The film’s breathtaking landscape, captured by talented cinematographer Luisa Tillinger, is a slice of serenity, even though the village’s permanent residents grapple with the reality of paradise’s temporal promises. It is an interesting and apt backdrop for this less-than-ordinary love story between two people battling dependency. Director Yulene Olaizola, a rising Mexican directing talent who first gained attention with her award-winning documentary “Shakespeare and Victor Hugo’s Intimacies,” collaborates with co-screenwriter Fernando del Razo and actress Luisa Pardo to create a rich and sincere narrative debut that subverts the typical addiction tale and highlights the subtle yet powerful performances by Pardo and Salomón Hernández. [Synopsis courtesy of the Tribeca Film Festival]
World Narrative Competition
Primary Cast: Luisa Pardo, Salomón Hernández
Director(s): Yulene Olaizola
Screenwriter: Yulene Olaizola, Fernando del Razo
Producer(s): Antonio Gómez
Editor: Rubén Imaz
Director of Photography: Luisa Tillinger
Executive Producer: Sandra Gómez, Maximiliano Cruz, Yulene Olaizola
Composer: Emiliano Motta, Emiliano González de León
[indieWIRE invited directors with films in the Tribeca Narrative, Documentary and Viewpoints sections to submit responses in their own words about their films. These profiles are being published through the beginning of the 2011 Tribeca Film Festival. To prompt the discussion, indieWIRE asked the filmmakers about what inspired their films, the challenges they faced and other general questions. They were also free to add additional comments related to their projects.]
Responses courtesy of “Artificial Paradises” director Yulene Olaizola.
Becoming a filmmaker…
I was finishing high school and I didn’t know what career to choose. I knew I wanted to study something different than the regular careers that you can find in most of the universities. Then my father gave me a DVD of the Doors collection. I dug into the extra material and I realized that Jim and Ray studied cinema in UCLA, and that was the first time I thought seriously about going to film school in Mexico City.
Finding the characters…
The inspiration for my film “Artificial Paradises” came from two different places. First, I met Salomón, a 65-year-old peasant who works in a beautiful beach in the south of Veracruz, where I shot the film. I did some camera tests and immediately decided to shoot a film with him. Then, some months later, I received the news that a close friend was in rehab for heroin addiction. I started to investigate the rehabilitation programs in Mexico to try to help her. I realized I wanted to do a film inspired in my friend’s situation. I decided to join the two characters through drugs and make a film about a 25-year-old heroin user and a 65-year-old peasant who smokes marijuana.
Developing a style…
My approach to the film was to create a documentary, contemplative style, where the story line is not the most important thing. The most significant elements are the atmosphere of the film, the daily aspects of the character’s life and how time flows. The use of drugs is exposed in a natural way without moral judgments. The film is really an uncommon love story between a local peasant and a young tourist. Salomón, who is not a professional actor, effectively plays him self. The only professional actress in the entire film is Luisa Pardo.
When I was writing the script I had this idea to mix the documentary style with the fiction. I had thought about doing some interviews with other characters, but this didn’t work because it didn’t have anything to do with the story between Salomón and Luisa. Still, there are some documentary sequences in the film where Salomón talks directly to the camera. That idea started as an accident during the shooting. Juan, one of the junkie characters in the story, started to cry after we did two shots and didn’t want to appear in the film any more. We still had to shoot a scene with him and Salomón. Luisa suggested we do the scene with Salomón alone. I liked her idea and I decided to shoot it as an interview. I think it works really well!
The financial issues were, and still are, the biggest challenges of the production. The Media Arts Fellowship from the Tribeca Film Institute supported the development process, but after that, I couldn’t find financing. The private enterprises were not interested because of the drugs, and I wasn’t lucky in securing the national funds for cinema in Mexico. I started being the only producer and I decided to finance the shooting with some economic awards that I received from my first film.
The next adventure…
From September till November I will go to the Fogo Arts Residency Program in Fogo Island, Canada. Then I will shoot a film by myself. I will decide the subject matter when I am there.