Colombian New Yorkers represented at this years Colombian Film Festival her in New York (colfilmny.co) with their young immigrant tale ‘The Inquisition Of
Camilo Sanz’ offering a new take on the American Dream set in the Queens vibrant neighborhood of Jackson Heights, which embodies everything of what makes
New York City the true melting pot of the United States. With wonderful, truthful performances from the cast behind the very deliberate eye of director John Marco Lopez, ‘‘The Inquisition of Camilo Sanz” is as real a New York story as it gets and can easily interchange Latinos with every other wave of
immigrants who came here with a pocketful of dreams.
LatinoBuzz: What’s your background in film?
John Marco Lopez:
I started out making music videos with my brother – right around the time when Youtube became relevant, and the DSLR ‘movement’ happened. After cutting my
teeth in the music world, I was able to make a jump into Television Commercials – as an Agency Producer. Fortunately, I was given the opportunity to become
their in-house Commercial Director. I was exposed to some big clients with hefty marketing budgets, and a variety of creative styles/genres to shoot for.
It was a great learning experience – both professionally and creatively. Finally, the time came where I had to dive into making my first feature (I tested
the waters previously with a few shorts). I say, “had to”, because I felt if I was going to call myself a ‘filmmaker’ – then I had to make a feature. It
was always my ultimate goal – so the chance came and we took it.
Which filmmakers have been the main source of inspiration for you?
John Marco Lopez:
Being a New Yorker all my life, I feel a special kinship with my hometown directors. John Cassavetes’ independent spirit and realism, Elia Kazan’s social
commentary and powerful dramas, Sidney Lumet’s intelligent, gritty, and relentless stories. Of course, I am heavily influenced by Modern Masters like:
Martin Scorsese, Woody Allen, and Francis Ford Coppola.
: Immigration is such a hot topic – was there a particular moment or reason you chose this as your subject?
John Marco Lopez:
I chose this subject because it was never told in the modern context. The general public assumes that most people who get deported – are day laborers,
recent border jumpers, or criminals. Little do they know, that many of these people are actually your college friends, your co-worker at the office, or
even your boyfriend/girlfriend – They’ve been here since they were babies, and grew up 100% American – so what happens when they get a pink slip from Uncle
Tell me about the aesthetic of the film and how you and your crew collaborated on that.
John Marco Lopez: We chose Queens – specifically Jackson Heights, because it’s one of the last bastions of non-gentrified New York, and where most of the undocumented blue
collar community still exists. So we wanted the visual aesthetic to match the energy, the vibrancy, and grittiness of this environment. It’s truly a
magical place – where during the day you see crowded streets of families shopping, a multitude of Latin dishes sold on the street, music blaring
everywhere, and the elevated 7 train roaring above. Then at night, it turns into a red light district – very reminiscent of 70/80’s NY… Gangs claim their
turf, prostitutes roam the sidewalks, and drunks stumble in and out of bars. Visually it’s stunning – neon lights, shadowy backdrops, and weathered
post-war architecture. My DP Chris Raymond – a native New Yorker himself – would always say he felt like it was a different country. So he was a kid in a
candy store – with so many visual elements to play with. Hopefully this translated on screen for the viewer.
LatinoBuzz: Anything you would do different?
John Marco Lopez:
Not really, I expected to make mistakes and fall flat in some areas – but that’s okay, I embrace that. I realize it’s all a learning experience – where I’d
like to keep improving, work on my craft, and grow into a better filmmaker.
What was the fundraising process like?
Kevin Lopez: The fundraising process for our very first feature film was truly a humbling experience, but one with a great deal of learning opportunities that have
allowed us to evolve as more well-rounded filmmakers. John and I have had a great deal of experience working in NYC on short form narrative and documentary
projects, so we had already developed a nice network of supporters and fellow production colleagues. Nevertheless, when we decided to embark on the
daunting task of producing a feature film, we realized immediately how difficult it was to secure funds considering the fact that we had never produced
something of this magnitude before. My brother and I discussed the pros and cons of moving forward with our own money invested in the film, and we agreed
that if we were to consider ourselves as true filmmakers, we would have to take the first financial hit for the sake of our vision and ambitions as
filmmakers. The funding therefore came almost entirely from us, which made this film that much more independent.
What was the biggest challenges in putting the film together on such a tight budget?
The most challenging aspect of producing a feature film, with a principle cast of almost 15 actors, in over 30 different locations throughout New York City
with such a tight budget was working tirelessly to prevent our money from running out. There are so many variables at play when you are shooting an
independent film in New York City. You are truly up against the elements, so problems arise at every moment, especially if your environment plays a
character in your film. The easy thing to do is to simply use the “money hose” to resolve many of those extraneous issues that pop up. In our case, we
couldn’t resolve all of our production issues with money, so many of the times, this involved careful negotiation and interactions with our surroundings by
John and I as well as our talented producers, Javier Aguirre and Tiffany Jackman.
Queens is very much a ‘character’ in ‘Camilo…’ – How was shooting using the streets, local businesses and getting the cooperation of the people?
Queens served as an inspiration for John’s script for many reasons. I am sure that while he was writing the script, memories of us as kids in Jackson
Heights would pop into his head. When I read the script for the first time, I felt like I was being taken back to those colorful and dynamic streets of
Queens, NY. That’s where it all started for us. Where our mom and our dad met. Where we lived for a bunch of years before we moved back to Colombia, and
then back to Upstate, New York. It felt right to only make our first film in Queens and to explore a story that truly represents a generation from that
community. Shooting throughout Queens felt like a homecoming experience for me. The community embraced us, and we embraced it. Even the Park Ranger who
didn’t want us to shoot in his park at first, eventually opened up to us when I told him that we lived as children a few blocks away. Filming in Queens was
a very organic experience.
Was there anything familiar about the story being that it was told by Colombian characters?
There were a lot of familiar things! I’m Colombian and grew up in Queens. Growing up I heard stories like this so often they stopped being extraordinary.
Characters like the ones in this film are people you know quite well, people close to you. As a Colombian I can tell you that I come from a culture of
strong family values; Beautiful, kind, and warm people who out of survival often do bad things. So yes, I think the familiarities are clear but more so
because it’s a story told by immigrant characters. Seeing truth like this on film really gives it, it’s magic back. Ordinary people doing extraordinary
What do you think becomes of your character ‘Andrea’?
I think Andrea decides to never be pushed around again, she knows she can´t wait for opportunities to come her way, she always creates her own and does her
very best. I would like for her to get a degree, become a professional, have a home and raise a happy family; But knowing her and her world I think she
takes over Rafa´s clandestine business.
: Camilo is trying to do the right thing but not in the wisest manner – What attracted you to the role?
The most attractive factor about the part of Camilo is the humane factor. He makes wrong choices and justifies them with need and desperation. Nothing is
more interesting to play than a multifaceted character. The viewer is not quite sure if he is a good or a bad guy, but he’s real and he’s human.
What kind of personal development did you bring to the character of Camilo and how much was done with Lopez?
John (López) and I explored the many facets of Camilo. The Camilo at home, the one at work, and the one on the streets. We both grew up in NY in similar
households and each of us had our individual similarities to Camilo. In discussing these with John I was able to better understand Camilo and the vision
John had for the part. It was a great experience.
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