programmed Ana Maria Hermida‘s short film “El Elefante Rojo,” a coming of age story
about a 15 year old girl who lives in a brothel in Bogota, Colombia who falls
in love with her first client, about 8 years ago for the New York International
Latino Film Festival. It was clear that Hermida had a vision and the camera
empowered her. The awards she garnered were no surprise to anyone. I was elated
to find out she had made her first feature film, “La Luciérnaga” (The Firefly), which is nominated for Beat
Foreign Film, Best Lead Actress and Best Supporting actress at the upcoming
Madrid International Film Festival and We spoke to Ana Maria about was behind the
making of the film and the inspiration behind her work.
LatinoBuzz: Why Film?
Ana Maria Hermida: I keep asking myself that question.
Why film? Why? It’s so hard but the answer is always the same. Film making
involves every single creative process that I love. Allow me to explain, I
discovered in my early twenties I wanted to be a filmmaker by
“accident”. Since I was a little girl, I knew I wanted to be a story
teller but the only “story telling” I knew growing up, apart from
watching my mom tell us amazing stories of her childhood, were the dramatic
stories I heard in the local news. So when I was around 8 years-old, I decided
I wanted to be a journalist. That quickly changed once I started Journalism
school around 10 years later. The reality of journalism, that I could only tell
the objective facts of a story, was frustrating. I couldn’t alter a story or
exaggerate the details to make it exciting. I had no creative control and just
as importantly, I couldn’t reach the hearts and souls of my audience the way I
wanted. It was no fun to be a journalist; I realized then and there that I not
only wanted to tell stories but I wanted to create stories and wanted to make
people feel something. I was always good at Fine Arts, I love drawing,
painting, and taking pictures so I decided to change my major from Journalism
to Fine Arts.
Once again, I quickly realized this wasn’t for me either, because
it felt very lonely; I spent days talking to brushes and canvases. I wanted to
be part of a team, a living, breathing, talking team. I needed to collaborate,
so once again I was lost and decided to move to NYC. Of course my parents
weren’t too happy about it. Long sidebar: NYC is the perfect city to find
yourself, it constantly gives you clues and answers in so many different ways,
you just have to be open to them. When I moved to New York in the fall of 2003,
I applied to Cooper Union mainly because it was free. I had an Associate Degree
in Fine Arts with a minor in Journalism, and even though I wasn’t sure I wanted
to become a painter, I decided to give it a second chance. During the
application process, I had to take a creative test with six random questions.
One of those questions was to show a room from one of its corners. I made a
drawing and thinking it wasn’t enough, I decided to make a short film. I had
access to a little handy camera and with the help of a few friends, I made my
first (and favorite) short film. It’s called “Another Problem” and it
tells the story of a girl who lives inside a tiny TV and writes a letter to the
owner requesting her to buy a bigger TV. You can watch it here: https://vimeo.com/2963422.
This experience “accidentally” taught me all the steps
to make a film. I was able to write a story, film it with friends, edit it with
other friends and then show it around. Film making had all the components I
love to do so I graduated with honors from the School of Visual Arts in 2009
and my thesis film “El Elefante Rojo” won Outstanding Film of the Year and Best
Director. When actor Kevin Kline gave me the Best Director award, he told me to
hire him someday. I will; have to keep my word. I hope he keeps his :) “El
Elefante Rojo” was inspired by Gabriel Garcia Marquez’s book “Memories of
My Melancholic Whores” and you can watch it here: https://vimeo.com/21403482
LatinoBuzz: What was it about this story that
you had to tell it?
Ana Maria: “La Luciérnaga” is my first feature
film and it comes from an event in my life. Even though it’s not autobiographical,
it has very personal moments. My younger brother passed away in a car accident
in December 2007. This has been the hardest thing I’ve ever had to deal with.
It changed my life. It broke me but at the same time, it inspired me. After
burying him, I came back to New York to finish school but I barely went to
class as it was too hard to even get out of bed. One day, his long time
girlfriend called me to tell me she wanted to spend some time with me in my
(tiny) apartment in the Upper East side. Knowing she was coming gave me
strength. I was able to get out of bed, buy groceries, clean up, and do all the
things that seem impossible when you are deeply depressed. She stayed with me
for over a month and during that time, I was able to see her discovering my
brother through my eyes, and vice-versa. I would see her staring at me and
saying thinks like, “you look just like him.” This made me feel uncomfortable at
first, mainly because it reminded me he was gone, but as time went by, I was
able to turn it around and felt inspired to write a love story his death had
inspired. “La Luciérnaga” tells the story of two women, who although are not
lesbians, fall in love after going through a mourning process together.
LatinoBuzz: Some of the scenes in the film are
stunning. What influenced the aesthetics?
Ana Maria: Colombia, my country. We are used
to seeing horrible things about it, but Colombia is actually beautiful. I
wanted to show that.Villa De Leyva for instance is one of my favorite Colonial
towns, three hours away from Bogotá, the city in which I was born and raised.
When I wrote the script, I had these locations in mind and working with Alonso
Homs (my talented DP) we were able to define the aesthetics of the film
together. As far as filmmakers that inspire me, I love Jean-Luc Godard,
Lucrecia Martel, Claudia Llosa, Spike Jonze, Miranda July, to name a few.
LatinoBuzz: You are Colombian but have lived
in many cities – which one inspires you the minute you wake up?
Ana Maria: Ha! Good question. Every city I love
inspired me in a different way. Bogotá for instance, it’s all about family.
When I wake up there I can smell my mom’s home cooking or hear the little
voices of my nephews. It inspires me to love and be loved, to be open
emotionally and let my guard down. It reminds me of who I am and that’s very
helpful when writing. When I’m in NYC, I usually wake up with the city noise: a
mix of cars driving by, people talking, sirens, the bus stopping. This
“noise” inspires me to work harder and to not give up. It makes me
feel invincible and capable of doing anything I put my mind into. When I’m in
Los Angeles, the city where I live right now, it’s usually the sun-rays that
inspire me. It sounds cliché but all that vitamin D really makes me want to
move, to go outside, to climb mountains (physically and mentally). It makes me
feel positive and motivated. Those are the three cities I spend most of time
in. I love waking up in little towns too because everything is new and
unexpected. You never know what’s going to move you or inspire you.
LatinoBuzz: What was the collaboration process
like with your two leads?
Ana Maria: It was amazing and a blessing. They
gave their 110%. Carolina Guerra (Lucia) and Olga Segura (Mariana) both loved
the project and understood it from the moment they read the script. This made
my job easier, and even though we were making a dramatic movie, we had a lot of
fun shooting it. It’s always nice to work with friends especially when they are
so talented. We didn’t have a lot of time to rehearse but together we were able
to find the voice of each character and I’m very happy with their work – Thank
LatinoBuzz: Do you think Latin American cinema
has become more accepting to financing films with LGTB themes?
Ana Maria: I’m not sure. I think investors and
studios (not only in Latin America but also around the world) are still uptight
about investing in films that tell unique stories. In my case, I was very lucky
to find investors that loved the story and believed in it. Some are from North
America, others from South America. LGTB themes are still a taboo in many Latin
American places and that’s another reason why I wanted to make this film. As a
Colombian, I wanted to shake things up a bit down there, not in a preachy way
but in an understanding way. At the end, we are all people and we were made to
love one another regardless of your physical appearance.
LatinoBuzz: Ok, pick a book to turn into a
film. who are the leads?
Ana Maria: Good timing! That’s exactly what
I’m doing right now for my next film. I took Alice in Wonderland and mixed it
with the true story of an ex-guerrilla leader who was taken away from home by
the guerrilla when she was just a little girl. The movie is called Alicia, and
tells the story of an eleven year-old girl who lives in a very remote area of
Colombia. One day she meets El Conejo (The Rabbit), a man with big frontal
teeth, who convinces her to go with him. Together, they go through what seems
to be a magical journey through the Colombian jungle, but it isn’t until the
end that Alicia finds out that this beautiful place she imagined is not what
she thought it would be. The back drop is guerrilla warfare and the recruitment
of child soldiers.
LatinoBuzz: What is the best advice has anyone
given you regarding making films?
Ana Maria: I’ve gotten great advice throughout
my (short) career but the one thing that really helped me especially during the
post production process of “La Luciernaga” was, “Take your time.” There
is a Spanish saying: “Del afán no queda sino el cansancio”. It
roughly translates to “Rushing leaves you tired or you are left with
tiredness after rushing” or something like that. Time is one (if not the
most) important factor when making films. We all know “time is money”
so rushing to get a shot or get everything you need is very important, however,
there are moments during this creative process when it is very (very) important
to take your time. We are artists and we need that time to make our art the
best we can. Only with time can one recognize what’s working or what’s missing
– I’m talking from my personal experience – so if you can take your time, do
it. Don’t rush the creative process especially when you’re editing.
LatinoBuzz: What’s next?
Ana Maria: Next is Alicia, my second feature,
as well as a TV series that is cooking. I wish I could talk more about it but I
can’t – Please cross your fingers! That way I can tell you everything about it
when it gets into production. Yeah. One last note, I wanted to let
you know this movie was made mainly by women. I wrote it, directed and produced it with the help of my
friend and fellow producer Luisa Casas. The main leads were women too as well
as many crew members. It is important to mention the need of equality in the
film industry. I don’t blame anyone for it, but I do want to be part of the
change and in order to have change, we need to create awareness and talk about
Give the film lots of love here:
Twitter – @LuciernagaMovie
by Juan Caceres . LatinoBuzz is
a feature on SydneysBuzz/Indiewire that highlights Latino indie talent and
upcoming trends in Latino film with the specific objective of presenting a
broad range of Latino voices. Follow [AT]LatinoBuzz on Twitter and Facebook