Gael García Bernal:
Reality to Fiction

Known for many from the works of renowned iconic filmmakers like Michel Gondry, Pedro Almodóvar, or Olivier Assayas, Gael Garcia’s work has already earned a seal of approval, which has given him the opportunity to be a member of the jury at the 2014 Cannes Film Festival. His theater, television, and film experience as an actor and as a producer have inspired him to now pursue a career as a filmmaker. Chicuarotes, his latest directorial work, awakens people’s darkest sides, unveiling generations of deeply entrenched frustration, abuse, and injustice.

                       —By Rodolfo Salazar

Your film Chicuarotes will be at the 2020 Oscars.Thank you. It would be fantastic since this movie has a lot of opportunity and is now screening in different parts of the world. I am very proud of the work of the whole team that made it possible.

People will compare your film to Los Olvidados by Buñuel since you portray human nature in such a beautiful way. Thank you very much. Truth be told, I’ve always found Los Olvidados and many other films by this amazing filmmaker, very inspiring — obviously always with a lot of respect towards Buñuel who is a master, especially his sense of humour and a lot of other aspects of his particular style, like [his films] sometimes being seen as a “bizarre game.” I’m talking about that specific type of filmmaking that blows up in your face, especially during these times, which can be considered a bit complicated. We are living in a very intense era for good and bad. Bad in the sense that, for instance, in the field of artistic expression, it is very difficult to restrict or to set standards about what can be told or not, since that would be considered censorship. The world of cinema is exactly that space to deepen the grey or ambiguous parts of existence. And I am referring to [that which] has no language to be discussed. The world of cinema is that specific place that eliminates pre-set standardized conceptual thinking and I find that beautiful. That’s the purpose of filmmaking and I am very happy that my film Chicuarotes flirts on that musical scale.

Going back to what can be told or not told, why do you think the fear to search for the root cause of violence exists in Mexico? I don’t really know but you just hit the target. I think we are afraid because it hurts. It hurts me. I think everybody has this feeling. Even the idea of making a film without exposing our society’s existing mistakes was painful. For instance, how can we reach the point of having a child get the idea to kidnap another child? How low have we have sunk as a society for these situations to be conceived? It’s painful for us to watch because it is part of our daily reality. But we want to stop that vicious cycle and I believe that is the reason why it hurts, since we need to find the root cause. It’s not only about the structural part of society nor what a country can do for the individual. Forget about social justice. It’s a topic that comes as a result of the lack of love and that’s the key — someone growing up with an incredible lack of affection. Most people overcome this situation, survive and break the cycle, but others don’t and the lack of love creates individuals that for some reason, in order to survive, become someone like the character in my film, called “Cagalera,” who looks like a functional psychopath that, in order to survive, has had to stop feeling because his pain has become too much to bear. Unfortunately, this is an exit for some people facing the immense impunity, corruption and culture of violence we have in Mexico. For them, this becomes a way of living. The first superficial analysis of the situation might be to think that it happens due to the existence of poverty, but it has nothing to do with the situation. There is no material poverty in the film. On the contrary, there is a material richness, but spiritual poverty prevails. There is a lack of empathy and that’s why it hurts, because we see it closely everyday and because we go to the movies very often. Mexico is considered to be the second or third place in the world in terms of how many people go to movie theaters. We have a big and important movie culture. It looks like we hope to get answers about our lives. On the other hand, that makes us unique. The same way Brazil is related to soccer, Mexico is related to cinema. We have incredible film schools, amazing people working in the industry, and a lot of stories to share. Filmmaking is an act of freedom; an act of community, and we can make original and personal films. Chicuarotes was made exactly the way we wanted — with no restrictions. Everybody working in the film will have a beautiful experience. It was the first time working in a movie for many of the actors and they’ll continue doing it. And they will do it very well since they are good at it.

“FILMMAKING IS AN ACT OF FREEDOM, AN ACT OF COMMUNITY AND WE CAN MAKE ORIGINAL AND PERSONAL FILMS.”

I saw pure “unconsciousness.” Quoting Siddhartha, do you think your characters have forgiveness embedded in sin? Would that be a message you wanted us to get? We are reluctant to say there is always an implied message since, in the end, movies exist so people can be responsible for their own personal experience. Each spectator should have their own reading. But I would say there’s something I really wanted to convey, and it has to do with who has somehow found a way to overcome the darkness and the vicious cycle that seems unbreakable. And I believe that in the film, some of the characters, and one in particular, sees everything from a different perspective and tries to establish a new language, a different narrative to be able to talk about the situation, envisioning a promising future, breaking the cycle of violence and assuming full responsibility to be free, in a sense. That character is the girl in the story, who represents the unheard voice in human history: the voice of girls, in general.

Do you consider illiteracy the cause root of homophobia, alcoholism, and machismo? I feel that we should talk about a functional illiteracy, in the sense of not being able to find new narratives, or to read them; not being able to understand new “imaginaries.” Definitely, “Cagalera” in the film, is a person who knows how to read and write but he doesn’t understand what he reads and write. I think that would be a symptom of his indolence. Reading makes you somehow more empathic. Understanding what is said and being able to write is an exercise in empathy that could be seen as symbolic. This is one of the symptoms we find in Cagalera since he cannot write anything. He’s incapable of elaborating an idea and that’s exactly how we can understand him as an individual and see how hurt he is. As viewers, we almost feel like we want to rescue him, to hug him and to tell him not to overreact to everything.

The film Chicuarotes will help viewers feel responsible for, and not like the victims of, the harsh reality we complain about in Mexico. Thank you very much Gael.

Written on: February 1, 2020