Gerardo Naranjo: interview
Former film critic Gerardo Naranjo made his first short in Mexico before taking a Masters in directing at the American Film Institute in LA. His three features have played in all the major film festivals including Cannes, Venice, Toronto and London, and his latest ,‘I’m Gonna Explode’, a story of fugitive teen romance, is out now.
From ‘Gun Crazy’ to ‘Pierrot le Fou’, there’s a strong cinematic tradition of lovers on the run. What did you feel you could add to it?
‘I guess I never saw a film where the lovers had nothing to rebel against. In Mexico at the moment, we’re in a very particular historical time. We’re distracted by the media, fashion, television, and we don’t know which way to turn, so I wanted to show a couple trying to rebel, but without anything to grasp on to. They have no books, no movies, they’re lost. I hope the film can inspire Mexican kids to go out and find something to fight for.’
You have a boy, a girl, a gun – how do you create the chemistry between them?
‘At the start, Ramón, the schoolboy, is a coward who isn’t following through on his ideas of revenge against the system, but in Maru, his classmate, he finds the perfect subject to influence. She’s waiting for her prince, she’s already created a perfect boyfriend in her own mind, but he’s the worst possible option for her. In a way, she’s a metaphor for the Mexican people. Whether it’s religion or political ideas, we follow them blindly even though the people putting out those ideas might not even believe in them.’
It’s a film about today, but there are echoes of ’60s Godard in the way it’s shot and your use of Georges Delerue’s music…
‘It’s for the kids who’ve never seen a Godard movie. And, you know, I really like the idea of “Pierrot le Fou”, where Belmondo is surrounded by all this culture and trying to make sense of it, so there’s a little bit of that in there. Generally, the ’60s movies are the ones that affect me because that’s when the angst of the young people collided with the mass media to make something beautiful. And it wasn’t just Godard, you have to remember. People championed whoever was willing to go crazy with them.’
The Delerue track you use reminds me of Godard’s ‘Le Mépris’, but it’s not from there?
‘It’s actually from Andrzej Zulawski’s “The Important Thing Is To Love”. I just want people to realise that Delerue is one of the great film composers. Nobody’s got that amazing string sound any more, that richness. His widow let us have it, which was just as well because I really couldn’t imagine making this movie without it.’
What with Alfonso Cuarón, Carlos Reygadas, Guillermo del Toro, the ‘Amores perros’ team, there’s an incredible flowering of Mexican film talent. How do you explain that?
‘We have strong personalities. We don’t really have an industry. There’s a small group of directors trying to do something, but in the eyes of the Mexican media it’s just like we’re boring. The industry that’s trying to sell all these popular romantic comedies doesn’t want us. For the Mexican release of this movie, we’re colluding with one of the duopoly TV stations, as a way of trying to influence them, but we’re really despised by them. Internationally though, it’s created tremendous interest. We had foreign investors on this film who came to us precisely because they wanted to get into independent Mexican cinema.’
Two of the signature Mexican actors of the moment, Gael García Bernal and Diego Luna, are executive producers on 'I'm Gonna Explode'. What was their contribution?
‘They were great godfathers, they gave us a lot of support. They talked to the two kids in the cast to encourage them. These guys, their lives are sorted already, so they really don’t have to do this. I appreciate that. But mainly, there were discussions on what kind of movie we were making, just to be sure that we got all the social and political aspects right. I wanted the movie to provoke, to start a discussion, because I don’t think Mexico is ready for conclusions. There were endless arguments, but that’s just what you want from your collaborators.’
Read our review of ‘I'm Gonna Explode’
Author: Trevor Johnston
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