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by Brian Brooks
July 10, 2007 9:30 AM
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indieWIRE INTERVIEW | "Drama/Mex" Director Gerardo Naranjo

In Mexican director Gerardo Naranjo's "Drama/Mex," two interlaced stories unfold over the course of the same long, hot day in the once lush and now decadent resort town of Acapulco. The first involves the beautiful and cool Fernanda, who is forced to deal with the sudden emergence of her ex-lover, Chino. Her boyfriend, Gonzalo, must now compete with the intense sexual tension Fernanda and Chino share. The second story concerns Jamie, an office worker with hidden indiscretions, attempting suicide in a beachfront hotel-until a precocious and equally dishonest teenage girl disrupts his plan. "Drama/Mex" debuted at the 2006 Cannes Film Festival, followed by the Toronto International Film Festival later that year. IFC First Take will release the film in limited release beginning Wednesday, July 11.

What initially attracted you to filmmaking, and how has that interest evolved during your career?

My first approach to film was as a hide out from the world and I guess that has been my relationship with it from then on. I see movies when reality gets too hard to take.

Are there other aspects of filmmaking that you would still like to explore?

Yes of course. I acted in the feature I did with my brother Azazel Jacobs called "The Good Times Kid." I have also been helping friends produce films. Although I'm not necesarily a businessman, I kind of like getting into the negotiations. Of course the films I have been invloved in are pretty human and low budget--and I say that as a good thing.

Please talk about how the idea for "Drama/Mex" came about...

"Drama/Mex" is a homage mixture of French New Wave film with Mexican ugly realities. The film was made out of frustation, and it was a way to survive before giving up filmmaking. I guess it's a success since I am still working.

Please elaborate a bit on your approach to making the film, including your influences as well as your overall goals for the project?

Well the actors in the project were people I kind of knew so the main idea was to make a home movie with our family. The players, who weren't actors at the time, were invited to join the family. We escaped to a hotel in Acapulco and stayed there for 20 crazy days.

Then we had to deal with the aesthetics and the script--that was the hardest part. We were conscious we were making a film post-cinema verite and post-Dogma in Mexico, so I guess we planned a script where the mistakes and the chaos would be an advantage--or at least that's what we thought.

A scene from Gerardo Naranjo's "Drama/Mex." Image courtesy of IFC First Take.

What were some of the biggest challenges you faced in either developing the project or making and securing distribution?

We never thought of distribution when making the film. We just thought about making it the best way we could. It was for the crew, not for me, the DP or the editor, but for almost everybody their first experience in making a film. That gave us a naive sense of "ohhhh-this-is-so-easy-we-can-do-it" that freed us from the thought of the impossibility of making a film. It was like a planned accident.

How did the financing for the film come together?

The financing came from everywhere. When the film was almost done our good friends at Canana helped us finish it.

Who are some of the creative influences that have had the biggest impact on you?

That's impossible to know, I guess some French, some American and many Italian directors.

What other genres or stories would like to explore as a filmmaker, and what is your next project?

My next project is about to start. It's a love story between two teenagers--a 15 year-old girl and boy who decide to rebel against the adults in a violent way. It's my hate letter to the people who made me suffer when I was a kid.

What is your definition of "independent film," and has that changed since you first started working?

Independent doesn't mean much to me, since it became a fashionable and profitable way of making film. I dont think an independent film is necessarily good or holy, not in this day and age. There are brokers and people who speculate in every sector of society, so I guess a crook can become an independent filmmaker in a second and get away with it. Of course I know two or three filmmakers that are making pure and honest films and that have some integrity, but they are about to be extinct.

What are some of your recent favorite films?

The best new film is called "Honor de Caballeria," I think its pretty impresive. Also, I loved Gaspar Noe's "I Stand Alone."

What general advice would you impart to emerging filmmakers?

Turn off the computer and do some reading.

Please share an achievement from your career so far that you are most proud of...

I am proud of the people I have around me. That's pretty great.

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