Horacio Alcalá • Director of Finlandia
"Plagiarism occurs in all sectors and industries”
- The Mexican filmmaker based in Madrid makes his fictional debut, after several documentaries, with a film that vindicates the so-called third sex in Oaxaca, the muxes
Finlandia [+see also:
interview: Horacio Alcalá
film profile] arrived in Spanish cinemas on 10 June distributed by #ConUnPack after a festival tour that included Seattle (where it won the award for Best Director), Miami and Toulouse, among others. Its director, Horacio Alcalá, born in Guadalajara (Mexico) in 1978 but a resident of Madrid for years, previously filmed A ras del cielo, A nosotros tu reino and Hasta el alba. We discuss his first foray into fiction (to be released on 7 September in Mexico).
Cineuropa: Why is it called Finlandia if the action takes place in Oaxaca?
Horacio Alcalá: I didn't want to contrive with that title. Finland is a country that I love very much and represents a faraway land. We all have a place where we want to go when we have a problem, and it can be a made-up word. In the film I don't talk about it as a nation, but as a land far away, cold and completely opposite to where the muxes live.
How did you come to know the muxes?
It us a subject that is not so well known in Mexico. Four years ago, at a dinner party, a friend from Barcelona told me about them. I thought it was fiction, but I spent the night watching documentaries and researching this third gender, and the next day I had a dossier ready, which I presented to the producer Aitor Echeverría. Three months later we were in Oaxaca to learn about them before writing: we spent a lot of time with them, we did interviews and with fragments of events that happened to them we started to build the script. It was a fascinating trip, because Oaxaca is like another country within Mexico: very rich culturally, with very unique things about its ideology, religion and way of life, like a parallel world. I am from a completely different area, so it was a journey for me as well.
You have shown an Oaxaca that is not too touristy.
The muxes are not there, but in Juchitán de Zaragoza, a city five hours away by bus, where 16% of the population is muxe. There they drive taxis, are cooks or work in the city hall. They are integrated into the community and are also an important pillar of the economy because the state of Oaxaca is a matriarchal society. We were unable to shoot in Juchitán, which was destroyed by an earthquake in 2017, so we reproduced the city in twelve different nearby towns in the state of Oaxaca. I wanted to represent the Muxe community in the film, but not a specific place.
In a male-dominated society like Mexico's, it is surprising that these people manage to be themselves: they are pioneers in reclaiming their identity.
They are pioneers, but also a message of resistance: the third gender existed, distributed by indigenous communities, even before the arrival of the Spaniards, but Catholicism forbade it. In Juchitán they have resisted throughout history and now, in a violent place with security problems, they are like a flower in the desert or in the middle of a war.
The film's aesthetics and photography bring out the beauty.
I didn’t have to do much, wherever you put the camera the images would look exactly like that: the colours are natural, just as they are. The interiors are based on Flemish painters and the exteriors on the film El lugar sin límites (Arturo Ripstein, 1978).
This is your first foray into fiction after shooting several documentaries. Can you recognise traces of your previous work in Finlandia?
Yes, I played around with some specific shots during the documentaries that I didn't use in the end, but I took the risk of using them in this fiction. However, my career as a documentary filmmaker has been the basis for all the aesthetics in Finlandia, it has been my school. Not forgetting that I come from the circus world, where I also learned to work with visual aesthetics.
In your film there is a contrast between Oaxaca and the capitalist world, showing a sophisticated and rich Madrid. Why such different settings?
These are worlds I know: I have seen and witnessed plagiarism, and this is how it happens, from a capitalist group with a lot of power. I am not judging, but simply raising the issue. There are already five international cases of communities that have filed and won lawsuits against fashion brands, from Gucci to Carolina Herrera to Dolce & Gabbana. Plagiarism occurs in all sectors and industries, for example from Europeans to Asians and vice versa; in all cultures and towards all cultures.
(Translated from Spanish by Vicky York)
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