14th FICM Official Selection: La caja vacíaBy: Gabriel Andrade Espinosa (@gabolonio )
La caja vacía (2016) by Claudia Sainte-Luce, is part of the Mexican Feature Film Official Selection of the 14th FICM.
The film is the second feature by the director, who had previously directed a couple of short films and the award-winning Los insólitos peces gato (2013), with which it also participated in the 11th FICM. She takes the roles of actor, screenwriter, and director on this film.
La caja vacía, an almost autobiographical work, tells the story of Toussaint, a Haitian immigrant who at 60 is still unable to take root in any country in which he has lived, and who has failed in all his relationships. The only connection he has left is his daughter Jazmín; a stranger to him, whom he’ll be obligated to contact on account of his health.
In a press conference the director, Claudia Sainte-Luce, said:
On the autobiographical nature of the film
“I think all the things we do have something of us. I am close to this situation because my father suffers from vascular dementia. It is obviously not our relationship. I believe that the disease can work, rather than as an obstacle, as a chance to introduce two people who don’t know each other. I wanted to show that they haven’t been close for a long time and is not that something catastrophic has happened, they simply are two people who grew apart because of the way they are and both are completely alone.”
Over death and illness in her work
“A certain obsession with death is very present, with how one goes on when someone leaves. The film shows a rather ugly way to die for those who remain. I do not know how it is for mind the mind of the person who is ill, but I think it’s like having memories that are gradually erased until you don’t know who is before you, like the closest members of your family. I researched and saw that someone with this disease reaches the stage of childhood, taking a leap backwards to remember maternal experiences. So it was important to put the flashbacks and leave the character’s age, make him live these memories because this disease makes you a child again.”
On the relationship between this film and her previous one
“This concern came to me the moment I finished the post production because it is inevitable to make comparisons between what was generated with this and with the other. The biggest challenge was to understand that each has its own path. However, I think this is definitely darker. Something that helps me not get depressed is that I could not lie to myself. I can’t do something and turn to a formula that works. I needed to prove myself doing other things. So it’s possible I have made mistakes with the story or acting, but one needs to make mistakes to evolve.”
La caja vacía before the audience
Later on, the public premiere of La casa vacía with a gala red carpet attended by the cast. The film was presented by Anne Wakefield, vice president of the festival. At the end of the film a session of Q&A was held.
On filmmaking in Mexico
“I think there are plenty of proposals, there are many people whose work I admire. But I think the hardest part about Mexican cinema is to reach Mexicans. That is the great challenge we have as filmmakers. It’s a problem in distribution, to have us in movie theatres for just one week instead of staying a little longer so that people can see us.”
On young filmmakers
“They need to dive in fully and leave fears aside. It’s inevitable to feel them but sometimes they’re the impulse that makes you reach the end. There are funds in Mexico and abroad, but what we need is to have something very important to say, something that can’t be kept inside. And when we have that vital piece, we must move forward and take it to the end. ”
From personal to fiction:
“Yes, it’s based on experiences and people I know, like my father, who has this disease. But then comes the fiction. It has to change because it would be a documentary otherwise. The essence remains but a character like Toussaint must be changed. And I think I owe that to my teacher Paula Markovitch, being able to write. Without her, I wouldn’t have had the courage to write.”