INTERVIEW WITH SERGIO TOVAR VELARDE

EDEN

a film by Sergio Tovar Velarde

Your film is deeply rooted to Mexican culture, and yet it felt like a very intimate and personal experience. By avoiding sentimentality you managed to tell a story that is emotionally powerful and and works as a scathing critique of social conformity and religious hypocrisy. It's wonderful film.

Thank you so much. =)

What do you think inspired you to make films?

The worlds that I get to see from my position and the worlds that I dream of. And, specially, the bridge in between. That’s what I like about films: not only to portray people, but to take characters up to new horizons and places that don’t exist anywhere outside our imagination. Also, I find the deep human essence an eternal source of inspiration. Nothing makes me more inspired than wondering what a person might be thinking, feeling or dreaming about while walking on the street, for example. I find it fascinating to be aware that every person on this world is not a number, but a whole unexplored Universe, and that, if we go deep inside enough into a character’s soul, we could most likely find certain features we all have: something to emotionally relate to, in that very moment when we’re all back to being one single soul again: the lowest common denominator, as I’d like to call it.

Are there any early early film watching experiences that had a major influence in your work?

I would have to say fantasy films. My earliest experiences were not as different as any other boy’s growing up in the eighties. I watched He-Man, Disney classic animated films, The Wizard of Oz, Willow, The Neverending Story and so many like those. I guess I was able to accept fantasy in films since a very early age, therefore, I feel very comfortable exploring very intimate human emotions combined with fantastic worlds I’d like to visit once.

How did you come up with this particular story?

When I first imagined the idea for Edén, it was thinking about what would happen if a swallowed seed, for whatever reason, could grow inside of a human body. That is a real possibility combined with an extra touch of magic, because I believe at least one of the basic needs for a plant to grow up would not be fulfilled. But I felt that it was a wonderful chance for me to use that as a metaphor to talk about important things. At the end, the seed and the growing plant inside of the body of a little girls is merely the pretext to go beyond and portray a family (or what is left of it) as well as a discriminatory society toward pretty much anything they can’t understand.

This film works draws from a rich literary Mexican tradition, while still managing to work completely in its on terms as a cinematic experience. Could you tell us more about how you negotiated that balance between the literary and the purely cinematic?

I wish I knew the precise answer. I think it is because I always thought of the film as a short tale, like a darker bedtime story. I do believe the film has a big Mexican Latin American literary tradition influence, but there are involved some of the memories I have from my childhood living in the mexican province and the heavyness of the religion within Mexican society. I believe the film turned out to be a mixture of all these influences.

How did you choose your locations and your actors?

It was quite a challenge fiding the right places for us to shoot. The town shown in the film doesn’t really exist like that, we simply couldn’t find the precise place with all the needs, so we shot it in at least 5 different towns, not even that close from each other, but they seemed to match just fine when it became together. They are all in Nayarit, México, a region full of amazing landscapes. We were able to find the correct locations thanks to the hard work of the scouter’s team. About the cast, it was a little bit simpler, since everyone in the production team seemed to have a good choice to put on the table. Even families, for instance: the veterinary guy is the actual father of Cyra, the girl with the plant, who’s also the daughter of one of the ladies at the meeting in which they decide to expel them out of town. We didn’t have a casting or anything like that. We listened to good suggestions and invited them to join us.

Did you notice any difference in the way people responded to this film at home, in Mexico and abroad?

No, not really. Originally I thought the film might not be so easy to understand for a non-mexican viewer, but it has been an amazing surprise to find out that it speaks to anyone. I believe that, even when the film is clearly Mexican, the tale that it tells is pretty Universal. The feelings of the characters on it are not strange to anyone, regardless the nationality. It’s what I called before “the lowest common denominator.”

Your film Cuatro Lunas just received the award for Best Mexican feature film at the Monterey International Film Festival. Congratulations! Could you tell us something about this new project? Is there a connection between Eden and Cuatro Lunas? If so, could you share something about it with us?

Thank you! Yes, we’re happy and proud about the award. Cuatro Lunas is a film made of four stories, each of them portraying a different gay male character in a specific phase of his self-acceptance process throughout four different stages in life, using the moon cycle as a metaphor. Even when it sounds completely different from Edén, I do believe there is a very strong connection: characters struggling to handle rejection in an intolerant society. People trying hard to find a place of their own in this world.

Sergio’s work has been selected in more than 80 festivals and has won several international awards. He has done projects in France, Germany, Cuba, Canada and Mexico. He holds a degree specializing in film communications from Universidad Iberoamericana. He has also been a fellow of the National Fund for Culture and the Arts. He directed Aurora Borealis (AKA My Last Day), which premiered in competition at the San Sebastian Film Festival and was released commercially in summer 2009. He also directed the short film ‘The Chat’, one of the segments that made up the film The Misfits, which won an Audience Award at the International Film Festival in Guadalajara. His latest feature film, Cuatro Lunas (Four Moons) was recently nominated the Sebastian Latino del Festival de San Sebastiá. The film also recently won The best Mexican Feature Film Award at the International Film Festival Monterrey, as well as the Audience Award at the Ft. Lauderdale Gay & Lesbian Film Festival. Cuatro Lunas will be released in theaters in Mexico in February 2015.