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Interview: EXTINCIÓN DE LA ESPECIE by Nicolasa Ruiz y Matthew Porterfield, a glimpse into the end of the world

Extinción de la especie tells the story of Esther, an 18-year-old girl from northern Mexico who wakes up in Mexico City overwhelmed and alone. Wandering the streets in search of work, she tries to connect with a young delivery boy whom she discreetly follows to the home of a mysterious woman. There she finds a soul mate and a companion for the end of the world.

With this story, directors Nicolasa Ruiz and Matthew Porterfield were selected to participate in the special screening that the Morelia International Film Festival (FICM) holds annually out of competition in the Critics' Week, thanks to the solid alliance that has allowed more than 50 Mexican filmmakers to show their work at Cannes.

FICM had the chance to speak with the directors. They shared with us some insights into the process of creating this work, which was part of the Official Selection of the 21st FICM. They also discussed their expectations regarding this opportunity.

Extinción de la especie (2023, Dir. Nicolasa Ruiz, Matthew Porterfield)

FICM: How did the idea for this short film come about?

Matthew Porterfield: Originally, when we asked ourselves about doing something, it was like a one-off proposal. We thought about doing something about Mexico City. And obviously, this was a big goal. So, for me, it was very important to make this short film, which is only my second in Mexico, with a Mexican director. I invited Nico to collaborate, and at that point, we started discussing ideas between the two of us. We were interested in exploring the experience of alienation when a person lives in a large city, whether they are from another country, city, or region in Mexico. In this case, it was a northern girl. Nico and I originally met in Tijuana. So, we shared this experience, and it was the starting point to create a norteño character from Tijuana who explores this great city for the first time. Then we watched a lot of movies, talked about locations and other actors, and decided we wanted to work with actress Karen Furlong. She was the first piece of the project. Then came the locations, but we didn't have much time to make the film. We had two weeks to write and four days to shoot. It was all very fast, very instinctive, and reflexive. What do you think, Nico?

Nicolasa Ruiz: Yes, the same. The Black Canvas festival invited Matt to make this short film, and then he invited me to co-direct it. It was a two-week process, really, of writing and pitching ideas. We were thinking, well, if the guideline is Mexico City, we just moved here from Baltimore, where Matt is from, and I just moved here from Tijuana. So, it was about exploring this experience of living in such a huge, intimidating city from the perspective of someone coming from a smaller town from the border. As I always say, in Mexicali everything is flat, there are no big buildings. Being in Mexico City, mostly cooped up in an apartment surrounded by buildings, creates a sense of confinement, of alienation. We thought Karen's character would be this girl who has just arrived in the city, looking for a human connection, looking for people to meet and build relationships with. But relationships are always complicated. So she starts following these characters and it all feels more like choreography than a linear story. It's a more choreographic experience, of feeling alienated and acting on impulse, seeing where these places take you.

Extinción de la especie (2023, Dir. Nicolasa Ruiz, Matthew Porterfield)

FICM: What were the visual references for the short film?

NR: Mainly Permanent Vacation (1980) by Jim Jarmusch and After Hours (1985) by Martin Scorsese. Also, Arrebato (1979), by Iván Zulueta. It is one of my favorite films. This Spanish director Zulueta almost always did experimental video and I love his work in design and fashion. But this film has a constant sense of suspense. The characters are very clear and there is great character development. Even though we didn't have as much time to develop them, we wanted to convey that sense that something was going to happen. The film keeps you curious about what is about to happen. The dialogues between the characters are incredible, and that was something we also wanted to convey, that feeling of being watched or observing something, the suspense.

FICM: What are your expectations going into Critics' Week?

MP: Well, I can't go, I'm a little sad, but I'm very excited about the selection. Thank you. What do you think, Nico? Because you can go to France.

NR: Yes, I am attending. I am very excited to be able to attend the festival. The invitation from Critics' Week and Morelianos took us by surprise. It was incredible to be part of that selection, along with two other works that I also love and that received awards last year in Morelia. I expect to continue getting to know other Mexican directors. I've never been to France, let alone Cannes, but as a filmmaker, it's an incredible opportunity. When I received the news, I knew I had to make the effort to go, take our short film, and watch a lot of films. I'm excited about the selection so far and I'm looking forward to seeing films, talking to other filmmakers, and sharing the experience of making films, especially in Mexico.

Extinción de la especie (2023, Dir. Nicolasa Ruiz, Matthew Porterfield)

FICM: How do you define the experience of making films in Mexico?

MP: I feel like I'm just starting to make films here, but I've admired Mexican cinema for many years. I like it a lot. There are many directors, producers, and artists working in film. I'm very excited to be here. It is an opportunity to explore and get to know the country more through the filmmaking process. It's a great opportunity and there is a lot of talent here. I am happy to have received support for my first Mexican feature film and I hope we can do something again in Tijuana next year.

NR: In my experience, it's been quite hectic, but in a positive way. Working on films with friends is something I truly enjoy. I'm interested in creating films with a more intimate and understated approach, steering clear of flashy elements. It's a challenge presented by our country, but it's also thrilling to embrace it and explore different ways of filmmaking. Not every film needs to be a big production. I'm currently producing a movie for my friend, Luna Escoto, and I'm eagerly looking forward to working on this project throughout the year. Hopefully, everything will go well. Luna's style of filmmaking, which is more liberating, experimental, and breaks away from traditional storytelling, fascinates me. I'm enthusiastic about continuing to create this kind of cinema here, collaborating with individuals I admire, cherish, and respect. I have formed many friendships through this journey, and the ongoing collaborations are very rewarding. Besides the challenges in our country, there's also the joy of building connections and meeting like-minded individuals who share similar ideas and perspectives on filmmaking.