10 · 24 · 18

Alfonso Cuarón Gave a Master Class at the 16th FICM

By: Marco Mejía @MiqkelMejia

The filmmaker Alfonso Cuarón offered a master class moderated by the Polish director Pawel Pawlikowski at the Ocampo Theater. Both were presented by Alejandro Ramírez, president of the Morelia International Film Festival (FICM), Cuauhtémoc Cárdenas Batel, vice president, and Daniela Michel, founder and general director of the festival.

Alfonso Cuarón reflected on his work as a director in his most recent film, Roma, which allowed him to explore himself and a Mexico that has changed over time: “It was a frustrating experience for me because there was a moment in which I didn’t realize there was a deeper process taking place in me.  Much of my discomfort was because I was reconstructing a whole period of my life and I was also getting closer to the history of my country and I realized that, not only changed, it has gotten worse in some respects”.

This internal process was what the director considers decisive in arriving at a “personal confrontation; a painful process and not a loving one”. In contrast, he admitted that it was different from the cast because the actors will always need to feel safe during filming.

In addition to modifying his internal process as director, Alfonso Cuarón said that the writing of the script led him to an atmosphere of greater creative freedom, more detailed and without the worry of being faithful to structures that the seventh art often conceives: “it is the first project in which I have allowed myself to give in to the process without an idea of what I was doing, I felt my feet firmly on the ground and I knew that I was in a reality and a universe that I did know; it is the first film where I didn’t know what was going to happen, even after filming or editing it.”

“It was not a script of the reality that I know but of what I knew, it’s the longest I’ve written because it was full of details, even sound details. The writing process was the same as filming because for the first time I did not sit down to make structures of dramatic acts and arcs, I only wrote allowing a subconscious flow and I had the theory that everything I wrote was going to belong to the story, without questioning myself, correcting or making annotations from page one. Part of the process was not to question the process; if I came up with a new scene, I did not include it unless it was born from the scene already written.”

Alfonso Cuarón

Describing the process of writing the script of Roma was the way in which Alfonso Cuarón also exemplified that nowadays film schools do not teach young people to develop stories in movies, but to create them through narrative devices structured in dramatic arcs and a first and second actor.

The issue of the complexity of creating a story led Cuarón to comment that he is attracted to deeper screenplays and confessed that one of his challenges today is to create more transcendental plots that connect with human beings: “I like a cinema where I have a Rubik cube, that part of the cinema to be able to figure out how to do things, I’m interested and I enjoy the genres, this process is what has brought me closer to saying that Roma is the first film in which I’m really creating cinema. Some conversations with friends have made me understand this rejection of the artificiality of the cinema, but the artifice is not necessarily the problem but the artificiality that hides the true meaning of what you are doing”.

“A cinema that I would love to do is one that is more transcendental and where the film language is at the service of life and not a work that hangs on a genre or a narrative, a cinema that does not hang onto anything. Now, I have no idea of the type of cinema that I will do next, but I  know that I don’t want to create something I have already done, I want to make the kind of film that I don’t know how to make”.

For this reason, the director hopes that the audiences that see Roma “will pour their own experience and memories into the film, because that is the only way we can connect with our own human experience.”

Regarding other topics, the creator shared that it is important to combine the form and the substance in each film project: “The form is part of the language and a large part of my career I had a formal concern for this, took time to understand that form and substance must be the same thing, they can’t be separated.”

Finally, Alfonso Cuarón made a distinction between the film industry and cinema in Mexico and throughout Latin America, as he considers that there is a big difference between these two terms: “Industry and cinema are two different things because you can have a big industry but make garbage movies, and what is needed to create good films are filmmakers and the necessary access to watch those films. ”

To end the lecture, Daniela Michel thanked Alfonso Cuarón for taking the time to talk with students and Pawel Pawlikowski for being the moderator and interviewer of the exchange.