An interview with Laura Plancarte; director of ‘Tierra Caliente’

Arts Muse was delighted to have a chat with the director of ‘Tierra Caliente’. A drama-documentary  you won’t forget easily.

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First of all, what is the film about?

Is the story of a family from the state of Guerrero, Mexico. As they go about their normal lives, they are caught in the crossfire between the Narco and the military. The film tells the story of how the husband of Daughter 2 is kidnapped by the Narco, and how one hundred taxi drivers set out on a search to try to find him. It explores and how the tragedy affects Daughter 2 and the rest of her family. The screenplay is a transcript of conversations from the family recorded over a period of two and a half years. Actors play the members of the family to protect their identity, but we are able to hear the actual recordings throughout the film, to remind the audience that these people are real.

What inspired you to make a film about such an important but denied subject in Mexico?

In 2012, I was on my way to the opening of one of my art exhibitions in Mexico. While sitting in the bus I was thinking how we artists and filmmakers are privileged people because we have a voice, and most people living in tragedy don’t have it and they really need it. I wanted to portray Mexican tragedy of the drug war through a perspective that wasn’t sensationalist. When I met Daughter 1 that day on the bus and she told me her story and the story of her family, I felt compelled to make a film about them because I realised that this type of story and emotion is what we were missing in the media reports. Through their story we are able to see how complex the drug war is, and at the same time we are able to see how in Mexico, regardless of the dangerous situation, that people still have a sense of community and of solidarity. When I learned that 100 taxi drivers went on a search to look for their missing colleague who had been snatched by the Narco, I was inspired by their courage and their passion to save their co-worker. I felt that I needed to join their fight to seek a better future for Mexican people. Going on this journey with real people who are fighting to survive changed my life.

I understood that the script has transcriptions of over two years, why did you approach it as you did?

I worked with the family for a period of two and a half years audio recordings. We started working through this method originally for safety reasons but with time that I realised that this was actually a great method to allow me to show their life in an honest way. We worked on interviews but mostly the family auto recorded their daily life. I believe that it’s almost impossible to capture someone through an interview but you can only come close by achieving an intimacy, which allows him or her to forget that they are being heard.

One of the greatest challenges of the film was writing the script. I had more than 500 hours of recordings and while writing they where still recording, so the script needed to change and adapt as we were developing and shooting. I needed to select only the material that would construct a story that could work as a film without losing the essence of the daily life of the family and the sense of passing time.

As the story is a taboo in Mexico, was this on purpose and if so, what is the message you are trying to sent out? What would you like to achieve with it?

I strongly believe that the film can join with other projects that are seeking a better future for Mexican people. In Mexico violence has become one more ingredient of daily life and people in order to survive deny what’s happening around them. Therefore, as a Mexican that lives in London I feel compelled to give a voice to Mexican people that are unheard. The distance I have from Mexico gives me a different perspective to other Mexican filmmakers that are denouncing what’s happening. I made the film in English because I wanted the film to reach an Anglo-Saxon audience. I believe that drug trafficking it’s a multibillion-dollar business that involves not only Mexico and Mexicans, but everybody. It’s the best business ever. I don’t think that only Mexican drug lords are getting richer. Corrupted politicians, other mafia members around the world and the armament industry are benefited by this business. It’s time to find new paths to tackle the drug war because at the moment Mexico is putting all the dead people. Personally I’m in favour of the legalisation of drugs.

What is your next step? What will you work on next and will it be another feature film? 

Yes it’s a feature film and I’m very excited about it because again it touches a subject that I think needs new ways and tools to tackle it: immigration. This new film tells the story of two Mexican brothers who have crossed illegally to the US four times, they have been jailed, and deported, and had all sorts of dangerous adventures along the way, and yet regardless of all this, they still dream about returning to the US. The film asks the question: why do they want to go back? What are they really looking for? I’m very excited with the making of this film because the immigration problem between Mexico and the US will be portrayed through the encounter with a family, showing us that to achieve a dream first we need to know the name of the dream. It’s not the American dream but the Mexican escape.The film is called Brothers and I’m making it with Roast Beef Productions

Thank you for your time Laura and we can’t wait to see your next film!

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