Film of the week: Artificial Paradises (fresh from Rotterdam Film Festival)

04/02/2011 at 8:30 pm Leave a comment

Love is the drug
Following on from her multi-award-winning documentary Shakespeare and Victor Hugo’s Intimacies, which told the story of the filmmaker’s grandmother and her relationship with a mysterious lodger in her house, Mexican director Yulene Olaizola presented the world premiere of her beautifully shot, contemplative fiction debut at the IFFR. By Mark Baker.
Taking its title from a Baudelaire anthology, Artificial Paradises: on hashish and wine as means of expanding individuality, Paraísos artificiales is set exclusively in a small coastal resort on the Gulf of Mexico, where two characters meet, each with a different, but intimate, relationship with narcotics. The drug angle is not the sole focus of the film, however, Olaizola is keen to stress. “The drugs is not the only important issue. It’s more about the relationship between two people who use drugs. It is more like a love story, but set against the background of drug use.”
Though fiction, the film stays close to real life, both through the casting of the lead character, Salomon (who Olaizola met while researching another project with actress Luisa Pardo, who plays the lead role (Luisa) in Paraísos artificiales and the story of the character Luisa, which is based on a friend of the director. “It actually started because one of my best friends became a heroin addict,” Olaizola says. “This is actually really unusual in Mexico City, we don’t have much heroin in the south of the country. So this was really weird for me, and for her family. That took me to do some research about addiction and recovery in Mexico, and this led me to Salomon. He is a real guy, he’s not an actor. He lives in the village where I shot the film. I met him, and decided to cross the two stories, his and my friend’s.”
Salomon’s performance is remarkably assured – at times, he even talks direct to the camera. “That was a kind of an accident, really,” the director explains. “When I was writing the script, I had thought about making some interviews in the middle of the fiction, also with some other characters. I had this idea to mix the documentary style into the fiction. In the end this didn’t work, it didn’t have anything to do with the story between Salomon and Luisa. Then one of the characters who is in the story, Juan – he is a little bit crazy – after we did the first two shots with him, he didn’t want to appear in the film any more. We had a scene in the script where he and Salomon are talking about Luisa. So now we had to do it with Salomon alone. Salomon had to talk about Luisa, but now he didn’t have anyone to talk to. So we just decided to do it with Salomon alone. I decided during the shooting to do it like this, and I think it works really well.”
The issue of drugs also crops up, in a much starker form, in Carlos Moreno’s Columbian Tiger contender Todos tus meurtos. “I have heard about it,” Olaizola says, “but I haven’t seen it yet. Obviously this is a very big issue now in Latin America, especially in Mexico. It is in the news every day, because the drug cartels are taking control of the country, really. My film is not about that aspect of the drug problem, but it is something that is in our minds all the time of course.”

Source: Rotterdam Film Festival

Entry filed under: FILM FESTIVALS, LATIN AMERICAN FILM, MEXICAN CINEMA. Tags: , , , , , , , , , , .

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