Mexico city (ap) – naturalized mexican Salvadoran documentary maker tatiana huezo has taken the step to fiction with the film “noche de fuego”, awarded with a special mention at the cannes film festival and which opens this weekend in cinemas of mexico.
For Huezo it was a natural change to seek a format to present a moving story about a harsh reality.
Based on the novel “Prayers for the Stolen” (“Ladydi”) by Mexican-American author Jennifer Clement, “Noche de fuego” portrays the story of little Ana and her friends who, as a method of defense against violence in their A people forced to produce poppies by organized crime, they are forced to pretend to be children.
“Since I read the book, I sensed that there was material to build a very powerful story and I was given the freedom in addition to making it my own and taking it wherever I needed to take this story,” Huezo said in an interview with The Associated Press by video call from the City from Mexico.
Huezo debuted in 2011 with the documentary “The smallest place” about survivors of the civil war in El Salvador, which was followed by “Tempestad” from 2016, a documentary about a woman held in a prison dominated by crime and a mother who seeks to a missing daughter, which won the best director award at the Ariel, the Mexican equivalent of the Oscars, and was nominated for an International Emmy.
With “Noche de fuego” she received an applause at its premiere in the Un Certain Regard section of Cannes and received a special mention. These three feature films by Huezo have been produced by the Mexican Nicolás Celis (“Roma”, “The wild region”).
“She was the one who introduced me to the documentary world,” Celis said of the director. “I’m grateful that it was with those great movies … It’s also the longest relationship I’ve had with a director so far in my career, I feel like we waltz better now.”
Despite the violence that surrounds them, Ana (Ana Cristina Ordóñez González), Paula (Camila Gaal) and María (Blanca Itzel Pérez), the three friends from “Noche de fuego”, play to read minds and enjoy bathing in the river. They also take care of their animals and want to go to school, but that is precisely what makes clear their vulnerable situation, as unstable as that of children in a war zone. The teachers at her school usually abandon the students as soon as they begin to be threatened by criminals and in the day-to-day life of the little girls it is not uncommon to hear of people being kidnapped or hearing shots.
The film presents them as children, when their mothers make the decision to cut Ana and Paula’s hair. Maria, who has a cleft lip, doesn’t. Ana also has a shelter in her house where she knows she has to hide when her mother tells her to.
Time passes and the three of them end up working as teenagers (played by Marya Membreño, Giselle Barrera Sánchez and Alejandra Camacho) as their mothers in the poppy fields. By then Maria has also lost her long hair. And meanwhile they are still unable to finish primary school due to interruptions caused by crime.
Huezo said that after “Tempestad” her soul was sore and she thought about tackling a lighter film, but Clement’s story caught her.
“I couldn’t turn my back on this story,” Huezo said. “I have not managed to get away from these issues, my insides keep moving, I feel that they are very urgent issues and that the cinema is a very powerful window to be able to build these stories.”
Although the change to fiction was not difficult for the director, her greatest challenge was being able to look through Ana’s eyes.
“Looking from that place where you have a purity in your gaze, I see in my daughter that she grows every day, in my 9-year-old girl, seeing her grow takes me back all the time to that behind me, to that moment where we question it. all with great honesty, “he said.
“It seemed very important to me to tell through the eyes of a girl who realizes what it means to be a woman in these violent contexts that we live in Mexico,” she added.
Celis agreed with Huezo about the weight of honesty for the film. “For us it was important that it be contextualized in a place full of truth, in a real place, with characters of flesh and blood,” he said.
In Mexico, where this year the Supreme Court of Justice decriminalized the recreational use of marijuana, President Andrés Manuel López Obrador and other officials have said that they are analyzing the possibility of legalizing poppy cultivation. Huezo said he was not aware of the details of these initiatives, but he was aware of the impact that the illegal situation now has on farmers.
“I know that there are thousands of peasants in this country, hundreds, who make a living by planting poppies and who are subjected and forced … to give up their lands and work in the planting of poppies for organized crime and those who do not stand up, pay the consequences. It is a harsh reality that is experienced in many parts of the country, ”he said.