11 · 25 · 17

The trade of filmmaking: Interview with Felipe Cazals

By: Anne Wakefield

During the fifteenth edition of the Morelia International Film Festival (FICM), one of the most prominent filmmakers in the history of Mexican cinema, Felipe Cazals, was honored twice: the director unveiled an armchair with his name after presenting a restored version of his masterpiece Luz’s Reasons.

In a self-reflective exercise, maestro Cazals spoke with journalist and film critic Anne Wakefield about the trade of filmmaking and his debts to national cinematography.

Felipe Cazals has been recognized with the Salvador Toscano Medal for Cinematographic Merit of the Cineteca National, the National Prize for Science and Arts, and with UNAM’s Film Library Medal, among other awards. He was one of the founders of the Mexican Independent Film Group and has directed fundamental titles of Mexican cinema such as Canoa (1975), El Apando (1975) and Las Poquianchis (1976), among others. He is an active member of the Mexican Academy of Cinematographic Arts and Sciences since 1998.

Felipe Cazals

Felipe Cazals at the 15th Morelia International Film Festival.

Read the conversation with the director here.

Anne Wakefield: It’s been an extraordinary year, right. Or how do you see it?

Felipe Cazals: Well, as a very contradictory year: I turned 80 years old, 50 of them directing films. I have many doubts, a lot of reflections on why I did some of them. There are films of mine that I no longer physically resist and, although it seems commonplace, I discover myself as a great debtor of people who in some way did everything possible for me to make my films.

AW: And do they know? Have you told them?

FC: Some of those people do not know and that’s where the issue of feeling indebted comes from because the absolute truth is that a film director alone does not make a film. Someone today may grab their phone and film, I do not know, but my time is full of people who somehow said “yes”. Then I did not see that person again or I did not have the courtesy of recognizing their merit. Thinking about my films, the important thing now, I think, is the way they were filmed, not how they were written. What did I say every day, in what way, with what intentions, with what veracity of what I wanted to obtain, how much had I distracted my time in other things? In short, I could have done better.

AW: Well, this is a revelation, because the easiest thing would be to rest on your laurels and not look back, but you are still growing as a human being.

FC: I was unconscious, I was careless, I allowed myself things that I do not allow anyone or that I criticize. Because the trade is soulless and because there was no other way; because to arrive every day to film is exactly the same as arriving in the middle of a fire and saying “what can I save here? Who do I not forgive and who do I protect ” There is a degree of selfishness.

Luz's Reasons (1985), by Felipe Cazals.

Luz’s Reasons (1985), by Felipe Cazals.

AW: But don’t you think there is a certain redemption in what you have given to people?

FC: I can’t say anything about that because I have a terrible limitation: I see a single sequence and I always say, “that light is wrong”, “why didn’t I put a black background on it?” and a long etcetera.

AW: What do you take from knowing the place you have for the Mexican public?

FC: Nothing, but not out of ingratitude, but because I don’t think it’s such a big deal. I simply did not go as deep as I had to go. There was more; I should have said “no” or done that shot again. I would not say it if I was not 80 years old, but now that I walk with my dog in the morning on the beach, I think that we can be less intolerant, that we can have less prejudice, and I had them.

Anne Wakefield began her career as a film reporter in Mexico. She wrote reviews for Televisa’s ECO newscasts and conducted Entre Butacas, a daily film program for Cablevisión. She was a film critic for several morning newscasts, where she interviewed artists such as Catherine Deneuve, Anthony Hopkins, Julie Andrews and Alain Delon. Her master’s thesis from Georgetown University, “Identity and Chicano Film,” was published by the University of Paris. Nevertheless, Anne considers that her true instruction began at home with her mother, a fervent cinephile who took her and her two brothers to the movies -religiously- every Saturday.