10th Ca' Foscari Short Film Festival
International Competition
José Luis González Peña
Superficies
Fiction 
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A busted tire causes Elanio and his brother Mirlo to be stranded in the middle of nowhere. While Elanio seeks help, Mirlo, surprisingly, meets Alondra, a young village woman who is willing to help them if they take her to Mexico City.

Hi José thank you for talking to TNC, how are you holding up during these very strange times?

On the contrary, thanks for the interview.

Fortunately I have been fine in these months of confinement. I have tried to be the most careful in my daily activities to cope with the epidemic of the coronavirus.

Has this time offered you any creative inspiration?

More than creativity, it has been a time for reflection.

Curiously, you can think that this time is good to do creative activities, but in my case it has been time to reflect on life and how it can change so abruptly and how one should move forward in this situation.

I am currently resuming the writing of a short film script that I want to film, I am trying to create a story that brings together the feelings of loneliness that one can feel, but without the need for it to be related to the phenomenon of the coronavirus.

Congratulations on having Superficies / Surfaces selected for this year's Ca' Foscari Short Film Festival, what does it mean to you to be part of such an amazing lineup of films?

It was great news to receive the notification that Surfaces had been selected in Ca Foscari. I didn't expect it to be selected.

When I received the news in January it was really a surprise that I was astonished, because it was the first international selection that the short film had received. It means a lot that the short film has been selected because I am very excited that new viewers outside of Mexico can see my short film along with other short films from great film schools in the world.

Superficies

"Cinema always grows from seeking the limits of representation and narration."

Superficies / Surfaces is in the International Competition, does this add any additional pressure on you?

I hope not.

More than pressure, it is responsibility, because it implies representing the cinematographic activity that occurs in film schools in Mexico and seeing them in conjunction with other cinematographic expressions that occur in international film schools.

In addition, I am delighted that the short represents the INDIE Film Studies Centre internationally and can motivate the other students who attend this school.

Can you tell me a little bit about Superficies / Surfaces, how did this film come about?

Surfaces is a short film whose personal objective was to explore the theme of the representation of violence in the cinema.

One of the aspects that upset me when watching movies related to violence in Mexico was how violence was shown. Many movies show it explicitly, trying to generate an immediate shock to the viewer.

That dilemma pushed me to think about how to work on the issue of violence and see how far it can be represented, which is why the short film is called Surfaces.

What inspired the screenplay?

When the moment came to think about what story to film, the intention arose to make a story related to the concept of Nuda Vida, a concept that I learned from reading Giorgo Agamben.

When researching the concept of Nuda Vida, I saw that one of the examples to understand this concept was the trafficking of women, which is a problem that is unfortunately very current in Mexico.

These issues motivated me to write the script for the short film in which the concept of Nuda Vida was combined with the trafficking of women.

In fact, the original title of the short film was Nuda Vida

Later the short film Los Ausentes (The Absent) was called, as a way of pointing out the absence of humanity that traffickers of women would have, but in the end the title of Surfaces remained since I liked the ambiguity that this word gave in conjunction with the story.

Looking back, is there anything you would have done differently on this film?

It would be a long answer.

But trying to be brief, I would have liked to extend some scenes, especially when Alondra brings the new tire. During the production of the short we filmed a scene where Alondra gets to climb a small hill and propels the tire to go down the hill and she chases the tire. It was one of my favourite scenes but when I was editing I realized that this scene took the rhythm away from the story, I painfully decided to remove that scene from the final cut, but I liked it so much that I decided to turn it into the trailer for the movie, I felt that this scene summed up the tone of the short film and its aesthetic treatment. 

Another aspect that caught my attention was turning Surfaces into a black-and-white short film, and I was almost tempted to leave it that way in post-production as it gave a more nihilistic feel to the story, but in thinking about it I decided to respect the natural colours provided by the countryside. I think it was the right decision

Where did your passion for filmmaking come from? 

It came from the need to change my life, to give it a meaning that goes beyond being someone who only dedicates himself to being an employee.

Before studying cinema I was an office worker and it really is a very grey job, not very stimulating, however, that environment helped me to think about what I wanted to do with my life and I decided to fulfil a wish that I had had since my childhood, to be a film director.

The office job saved me money and I decided to study an intensive film course at the INDIe Centre for Film Studies, trying to specialize in film directing, and I hope to continue in that direction.

So my passion for making movies is not to go back to an office desk... 

It's a joke.

How much has your decree in Communication Science influenced your filmmaking?

Totally.

The Communication degree allowed me to have a work methodology, especially with regard to the investigation of current issues of my country and the world and that helped me a lot when investigating about human trafficking in Mexico.

In the same way, the skills that I developed at the time of writing my university thesis were applied when creating the production portfolio of the short film, it was like making a methodological framework for the short film,

That kind of educational experience gave me the perspective of how to argue the importance of make Surfaces, as well as the way it should be filmed.

What has been some of the best advice you’ve been give?

I think the best advice they have given me and it may sound cliche is that the camera does not matter when making movies.

I decided to apply that advice when producing Surfaces, since the short film was shot with a Sony A7 III, a non-professional film camera and I think it was a good idea since it allowed us to make the filming of the short film more flexible and faster.

I value such advice a lot and it is something that I will continue to apply in future projects.

Should filmmakers continue to push the boundaries of the films and stories they want to tell?

Of course, I would say that it is necessary.

Cinema always grows from seeking the limits of representation and narration.

If that type of thinking did not exist, there would be no directors such as Robert Bresson, Andrei Tarkovsky, Chantal Akerman, Marcel Hanoun, and an infinity of directors who have pushed the way of making films.

Do you have any tips or advice you would offer a fellow filmmaker?

The best advice I could give is not to be intimidated by not having enough resources to make a short film. The important thing is to know how to use the resources you have at hand.

Creativity and clarity matter more in cinema than having an expensive camera.

And finally, what do you hope people will take away from Superficies / Surfaces?

I hope that people see a story that seeks to go beyond the representation of violence and feel the ambiguity that human beings can have when being in an extreme situation.

Human violence is complex and sometimes we can only understand it by looking at the surfaces on which violence leaves a trace.

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