16th ÉCU – The European Independent Film Festival
9th, 10th, 11th April 2021
After surviving assault, an enigmatic 17-year-old Mexican girl finds retribution through her untapped female power and local witch culture.
Hi Ashley thank you for talking to TNC, how are you holding up during these very strange times?
I've been doing as well as can be under the circumstances and am grateful for time with my friends & family, and the films that have kept me busy.
Has this time offered you any creative inspiration or opportunities?
Luckily, yes! I totally get that everyone has been working through this pandemic in their own ways, understandably, but personally I've been able to divert attention to writing & producing work. I've made great progress on my feature directorial debut script, WAVE MOTHER, and am excited to continue developing that. I've also been on quite a few safe sets since August 2020, and have been developing a few other films as producer.
Congratulations on having Diabla selected for the 6th ÉCU Film Festival in Paris, what does it mean to you to be part of such an amazing lineup of short films?
I'm so excited to have our film play in Paris! It's always an honour to be a part of these incredible festivals. I just wish we could be there in person!
Your award-winning short has already had an amazing festival run what do you think it is about Diabla that's connected with audiences so much?
Diabla's about a woman who finds her power and I think audiences are definitely into seeing women come to life, into fully being. Diabla falls a bit into the revenge category as well so that niche gravitates towards this film for obvious reasons, but I think, overall, people just like the satisfaction that Nayeli's experience might provide some people. Nobody necessarily "WINS" in this film but power structure is strongly explored, and that's a huge factor.
"Share what you have to say when you're ready. And know it's hard to do it alone. Find a team to you love and trust."
Can you tell me a little bit about Diabla, what was the inspiration behind the screenplay?
Both Maya, the producer, and I are avid horror lovers so when Maya decided she wanted to produce her thesis film in Mexico we spent a lot of time researching women's issues in Mexico City, learning a lot about femicidio & domestic abuse. We knew that we wanted to stay focused on the women's experience and naturally that evolved into a revenge story.
How much do you personal experiences help to influence the films you make?
My personal experiences drive everything I do. Nayeli's story is very much her own, and this film is not about me, but I strongly relate to this young woman and I'll say that, while writing with Alonso, I dug into my own well to inject authenticity & emotion into our script.
What where the biggest challenges you faced brining this film to life?
Authenticity was a driving factor throughout the whole process of making Diabla, and we had some incredible locations that weren't easy to get to or lock in, but we did. Grateful to our co-producer Diana Mata for everything she did with locations. We got lucky, but we weren't always in the safest of places, and we had a few experiences where tensions were high and our team's safety was an issue for short periods of time.
We also had a longer post process and that was a challenge!
Looking back is there anything you would have done differently on this film?
I long considered a director's cut of this film but have since moved on. There's a lot of things I would have done to further finesse transitions & the story edit but think we all get caught up in the what-ifs with that. Gotta move on.
But, no, I'm happy with how it turned out, and am excited to keep going, for sure!
Describe your film in three words?
Alarming, powerful, beautiful
How much has your style and approach to your films changed since your debut short?
My style's been refined a bit and will continue to polish, but I don't think my approach has really changed. I'm drawn to socially conscious stories whether or not that's with the coming of age LGBTQ+ narrative I explore in Sometimes Forever or the female revenge horror we examine in Diabla. Working closely with my team, or my film family, is an intimate process and I always want to approach production in a way that generates a sense of safety & comfort for everyone especially as we recreate experiences that might feel like rocky, challenging terrain.
Is there any advice you have been given that has really helped you?
Francis Ford Coppola told me to never waiver on my vision. That sticks with me always.
Do you think filmmakers should continue to push the boundaries of the films and stories they want to tell?
What tips or advice you would offer a fellow filmmaker?
What you have to say matters. You matter. Share what you have to say when you're ready. And know it's hard to do it alone. Find a team to you love and trust.
And finally, what do you hope people will take away from Diabla?
The power is within you.