Stories made visual poetry
Something worth mentioning about the most important aspects of new Mexican cinema is the exploration of unconventional themes and formats in the most hidden corners of our country which may be lavish to our eyes, but are often ignored. La Esquina del Mundo is a short film that’s being shown in this edition of the Guanajuato International Film Festival, shot in Mazunte, Oaxaca, by Mexican director Mariano Rentería Garnica. A tale of visual perfection in which two beautiful stories are told in two opposite, but equally bewitching dimensions: the sea and the mountain.
At age 26, Mariano has made three short films and is currently in pre-production on his first feature, which he’s been writing for a year. His work has promised Mexican cinema an exceptional poetic look.
Where did your inspiration for this short film came from? Do you have a special relationship with the sea?
I’ve always been afraid, even had a phobia of the sea, which is why I think I’m so attracted to it and this short film is about two people I met on a trip who have a very special relationship with the sea that I don’t have, or didn’t have before. I was interested on a visual level, how I could tell maybe not a story as such, but a series of actions and events they have in their daily lived in this space that I find peculiar.
It’s the furthest South can be in Mexico and it’s an impressive place in terms of the landscape it offers and I wanted to show that rhythm of life. On this place, it’s almost a geographical and architectural quality in which time appears to go slower and I wanted to show how my characters live it as opposed to how I live it in the city. They live a very different dynamic to my own and my interest sparked from my great fear of the sea and great fondness for these people I met. I wanted to visually tell a very valid story of their lives, in which they work but they also dream and all their ideological references stem from the sea.
What was your approach to your characters like?
The short is about a girl who works in the mountains and a fisherman who works the open sea with a harpoon. I met them on this journey and for the short film we went to Mazunte with a beginning of a script, but part of it was the time not filming them, simply being with them, not with a camera. I obviously discussed my intentions, but I was more interested in interacting with them and building that trust. That’s one of the dynamics of a documentary, the interaction among people, and that’s based on coexistence, which was very organic in this case.
How long did it take you to film?
A month, more or less, including the time I spent with them which was crucial, because during filming I had a clear idea in terms of structure what I wanted to show and how I wanted it to look. That process was where these things I hadn’t been so clear on came about.
The short film is filled with beautiful takes inside and outside the water, what were your photographic pretenses?
It’s not spelled out, but there’s a topic in terms of the strength of the sea. The physical and the visual strength in terms of color and dimension that I wanted to make very clear in this short film. This thing about dimensions, the big, the small and the human scale. In a way, this idea of these people in these immense places that they eat up, the scales, the colors, the girl standing on the mountain… We focus on how that image should like it to do these places justice.
Underwater scenes were also a lot of work because each character talks about how they’re affected by their surroundings and the fisherman spends most of his time under water and it was important to see what he sees. I shot some scenes and then I got heat stroke and couldn’t go on, so the producer finished it. IT was difficult because the sea was wild, but the fisherman’s space required underwater takes and the girl, we placed her in the immensity of the mountains to tell her story.
I also believe it’s not just about incredible shots, but about functional ones. We followed the logic of the human scale and shot a lot of material that didn’t make it into the project. The short film has certain rules that define its style and it was important for us to decide what we could do and what we couldn’t. A lot of great material wasn’t used because it just didn’t work.
What have you learned from your own experiences to this day?
Film is a journey, embarking on things you don’t know about. Fear can also build things and I think that’s interesting and in that experience you never stop learning. This is my third short film and I’m interested in that format because you can keep discovering how best to use that language, use it in a way in which you can make mistakes, but film is built from decisions we make and experience is built from the momentum of decision-making, life is full of that.
Film reflects life directly. I don’t think about film all the time, but apart from making one a better filmmaker, it opens up your range of experiences and I think that’s how learning works.
In these next few or many years, there will be journeys that will lead to so much more. The way I see it, you don’t have the final word over where what you do will take you, but it’s a risk worth taking to open up to these experiences.