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Meet the 2011 Sundance Filmmakers | “All Your Dead Ones” Director Carlos Moreno

Meet the 2011 Sundance Filmmakers | "All Your Dead Ones" Director Carlos Moreno

In this eerie and fantastically shot tragicomic satire, an ordinary farmer’s morning routine is interrupted when he makes a grim discovery in the middle of his cornfield – a huge pile of dead bodies. Aghast, he reports the mysterious massacre on what happens to be Election Day. When the small-town mayor and police lieutenant take notice, fearful of unleashing a public scandal, they stall and intimidate the farmer and his family. Meanwhile, the sun beats down, and the eerie corpses remain, refusing to be ignored.

As we watch with bated breath, “All Your Dead Ones” unspools a disquieting allegory, a silent indictment of Colombia’s ongoing civil war. The subtly heightened imagery and sound, crafted with unsettling intensity, illustrate a frightening crisis of social conscience. Tinged with mordant surrealism, director Carlos Moreno’s return to Sundance (Perro Come Perro screened at the 2008 Sundance Film Festival) demonstrates that rare ability to transcend genre and a remarkable storytelling vigor, anchored within a haunting and arresting visual motif. [Description courtesy of the Sundance Institute]

[indieWIRE invited directors with films in the Sundance U.S. Dramatic & Documentary Competitions as well as the World Dramatic & Documentary Competitions and NEXT section to submit responses in their own words about their films. These profiles are being published through the beginning of the 2011 Sundance Film Festival. To prompt the discussion, iW 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.]

“All Your Dead Ones”
World Cinema Dramatic Competition
Director: Carlos Moreno
Screenwriter: Alonso Torres, Carlos Moreno
Cast: Alvaro Rodríguez, Jorge Herrera, Martha Márquez, Harold De Vssten, John Alex Castillo
Executive Producer: Diego F. Ramirez, Nancy Fernandez, Diana Bustamante
Producer: Diego F. Ramirez
Editor: Andres Porras
Music: Jose Garrido
Photographer: Diego F. Jimenez
Art Director: Hernan Garcia

Responses courtesy of “All Your Dead Ones” director Carlos Moreno.

An accidental filmmaker

I believe that I have become a filmmaker by chance; before learning the trade of filmmaking, the obsession of being a “storyteller” always lived in me. I tried to express this need through drawings, comic books, music, literature, and right now I am traveling through the labyrinths of filmmaking in search of that enigmatic goal. I do not want to sound ungrateful, though; in order to bring a film into light one has to overcome all sorts of obstacles, but behind the decision of where to place the camera and how to convince the actors to portray a character a certain way, there is a desire that goes beyond the word cinema… filming is a path.

“None of them knew how the corpses had arrived there…”

The idea of “All Your Dead Ones” emerged from a journal chronicle that was never published; a journalist friend wrote a while ago how two mayors of a rural region in Colombia sneakily dumped on each other some corpses that were found on a local road. None of them knew how the corpses had arrived there and neither wanted them to become part of their tragic statistics. Chance and journalistic zeal put aside the text, and the lack of clues and material facts caused the story to be buried by other news. Alonso Torres and I, deeply moved by the indolence and aberrant tragicomic situation, decided to write “All Your Dead Ones” … with a palpable feeling of anger that I hope permeates the film.

A small production, a simple premise, and big aesthetic results

Our purpose was to explore a production model in which a politically corrosive story with a simple dramatic premise could be filmed with a very small and intimate production team. We were all in some sense committed to this search, experimenting from all angles of this minimal production, and it pervaded the film’s aesthetics in a very beautiful and interesting way on everything that is seen on screen: the characters, intensely construed during rehearsals, the work from art direction which is completely consistent with the reality of the surroundings and a rigorous cinematography almost obsessed with natural lighting.

Shining a light on the production’s biggest challenges

I believe the challenge that the Cinematographer and I took when deciding to shoot this film based completely on natural lighting, is what defined most part of the aesthetics in our movie. I even think that this was crucial on the actors’ performance; managing to convey a stifling tone and rhythm thanks to the pressure of working under direct sunlight. The specific moments when the sun was ideal for shooting were golden and the actors became accomplices of this situation with discipline, rigorousness and even mysticism.

Another challenge was the selection of the main cast since we did not follow a conventional casting process. I spoke with actors that I have had a previous experience with and that had at some point faced the challenge of writing, whether it was for theater, television or cinema. This was a key condition because during the month of rehearsals we all together rewrote the script and rebuilt the characters. I believe these two challenges were decisive in the movie.

I am a firm believer in Tolstoy’s phrase: “Speak of your own town and you will be universal.” My only hope is that beyond making a film that portrays the Colombian social conflict, we display on screen the human indolence. Our movie is similar to a fable and the fact that the characters are based on stereotypes is justified in our desire to be direct and universal… when I was a boy I always understood the solitary meanness of Aesop’s foxes even though I had never seen them. I hope that mechanism works with the audience at Sundance, which is in some way universal.

Latin American influences (with a Surrealist touch)

The creative process in film almost always makes reference to other works of art and other authors. Us who are not geniuses must come to terms with that. It is evident that our movie refers to and is inspired in some of Luis Buñuel’s films, but it also pretends to pay homage to local artists such as Carlos Mayolo and Luis Ospina. Colombian and Latin American cinematography, as well as its public, have been slowly forgetting those politically poignant films which have been the inspiration and basis of “All Your Dead Ones.”

Film projects on the horizon

I am currently writing and developing with Alonso Torres a thriller that takes place in the subterranean world of Ciudad de Mexico. This project, which was commissioned by a French production company, occupies most of our energy and intensity nowadays… it is practically devouring us and making us feel a similar vertigo as the one we experienced when writing “Dog Eat Dog.” In addition, I am also in the postproduction phase of “Snitches’ Cartel,” a film produced by Manolo Cardona, inspired in a novel and a successful Colombian television series.

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