Alex Hammond has worked in film and TV in New York City for over ten years. Her feature debut, “Strange Things,” premiered at MoMA’s Documentary Fortnight Film Festival and was featured on PBS’s “Independent Lens” series. In 2012, she produced and co-directed “Better Than Something: Jay Reatard,” hailed as the “Best Rock Doc of the Year” by The AV Club and IFC. (Press materials)
W&H: Please give us your description of the film playing.
AH: “Lucha Mexico” is a feature film about the passion and obsession of being a Mexican wrestler.
W&H: What drew you to this story?
AH: Being half-Mexican and always wanting to make a film in Mexico, I was attracted to the world of a sport where people put their lives on the line for entertainment. I had wanted to make a film about bullfighting, but when Lucha Libre — professional wrestling — was introduced to me, I was immediately drawn to it. When I saw my first live match, I knew this colorful spectacle that operated on so many levels deserved the big screen. The focus on the oldest story known to humankind, good against evil, just made it even more compelling.
W&H: What was the biggest challenge in making the film?
AH: There are so many challenges when making a documentary, but in this case the first was trying to get close to characters who wore masks and were very secretive about their identity. It’s hard to connect with someone who never takes off their mask — we realized audiences may struggle with it.
The next challenge, and probably the biggest, was editing the film ourselves. Deciding which stories and characters stay and which go, after shooting hundreds of hours with dozens of wrestlers who all have something unique to say, made it difficult. You’re so close to the material and the subjects that it’s easy to lose perspective. And unfortunately, one of the wrestlers passed away this year and we had no choice but to do a significant amount of re-cutting.
W&H: What do you want people to think about when they are leaving the theater?
AH: I want people to leave the theater inspired and moved by what these men and women go through. Their dedication to this physically demanding sport is incredible. Hopefully people will appreciate seeing something different come from Mexico, not just the same negative news we see on TV.
W&H: What advice do you have for other female directors?
AH: I think this is an exciting time to be a female filmmaker. The best advice is to trust your instincts, work harder than anyone else and learn your craft. Know it all. This means learn how to shoot, edit, produce and direct. Get as much experience as you can and watch a lot of films.
W&H: What’s the biggest misconception about you and your work?
AH: It think the biggest misconception is that I’m only a documentary filmmaker, but in fact I have made many narrative shorts. My biggest inspirations are narrative films, and that’s ultimately where I see myself going next.
I am also a very hands-on filmmaker who not only directs, but produces, shoots and edits. People outside the documentary world don’t realize how time-consuming making a documentary film is — there is a lot of responsibility, and in order to make something good you need time.
W&H: How did you get your film funded? Share some insights into how you got the film made.
AH: The film was made totally independently. We got funding from family, friends and money from freelance jobs. Of course, there were so many people who donated time and talent to help us make the best film.
W&H: Name your favorite woman-directed film and why.
AH: This is honestly a very difficult question to answer because I don’t have a favorite. There are quite a few. I will say that my favorite female-directed films are narratives. “Ratcatcher” by Lynne Ramsay is one of those films that really moved me because it’s so raw and beautiful at the same time. It also brought me to a place that I’ve never been before.
The films by Allison Anders, Kathryn Bigelow, Jane Campion, Agnes Varda, Nina Menkes are others that I deeply love and have inspired me. All of these women have a distinct point of view and allow me to fully immerse myself in the experience and the unusual worlds they chose to capture.