Amat Escalante • Director of Lost in the Night
“The idea of this film is that we’re really all part of the problem”
by Jan Lumholdt
- CANNES 2023: The acclaimed Mexican auteur returns with a dark story of hidden secrets
Returning to the Cannes Film Festival ten years after picking up the directorial award for Heli [+see also:
film profile], Amat Escalante presents Lost in the Night [+see also:
interview: Amat Escalante
film profile] in this year’s Cannes Première section, a dark story of missing persons, a wealthy artistic family and some conveniently hidden inconvenient secrets. The acclaimed Mexican auteur sat down and generously provided some thoughts on a variety of subjects, including creative friendships among both current compatriot directors as well as timeless international greats like Dostoyevsky and Fassbinder.
Cineuropa: Let’s get into some of the themes you’re exploring here, not least violence and the arts. And possibly some politics as well?
Amat Escalante: I’d like to call it social but I guess you could call it political in its critique of certain systems that works very well for some but not for others, at least in a country like Mexico. I wanted to show this through this celebrity family that you wouldn’t think would be part of the problem. The idea of this film is that we’re really all part of the problem. Any hope for change is small, despite the current president promising to end all corruption in Mexico as soon as he got elected. He obviously hasn’t yet.
You also include some social media activity, with the artist father and the adult influencer daughter, both exhibiting their work through these channels, or perhaps even exploiting it?
I wanted to approach some new themes I was attracted to and the social media interaction of things among us all these days. The particular area in which the story takes place, Guanajuato in the middle of Mexico, is violent and at times full of tragedy. I was drawn to this idea of someone using tragedy as inspiration for their artistic creativity and, being the ones with the time and money, ultimately also being the ones who get to tell the victim’s story. I’m not judging, it’s just how it is. Dostoyevsky, whom I quote at the start of the film, wrote about people in very difficult situations, people I’m sure he knew, but he himself is the one who got famous. It’s complex.
Among the complex characters we get to meet in the film is the house of the central family, playing a highly concrete part here. It’s quite a piece of architecture. Can you talk about its creation?
It’s certainly a project in itself. It’s a set, actually financed with a grant we got from the state of Guanajuato that we had to use within one year. It’s got no electricity or plumbing, but we were able to design it so that the camera could move freely by moving walls or windows. We’re inspired by German expressionism and Rainer Werner Fassbinder, of whom both I and the production designer Daniela Schneider are great fans. We often think of him when we design our sets. His particular brand of melodrama also really appeals to me, the immediacy and the rawness, and the humour.
What about your national contemporaries? Are you following or interacting with them? Mexican cinema is quite famous today for the support between directors, not least through Guillermo del Toro, Alejandro Iñárritu and Alfonso Cuarón, “The Three Amigos”. Are you also part of such a circle?
I am. Michel Franco, Alejandra Marquez, Alonso Ruizpalacios, Natalia López… We have a good back and forth relationship, trying to help each other. Rather than aiming to be king of the hill alone, we have unity. I myself have experienced great generosity, first from Carlos Reygadas. When I’d just started, he was in Cannes with Japón and I wrote to him out of nowhere without knowing him and he replied and offered me his film camera! He also ended up producing my first film. We are part of a new era here in Mexico. Before that it was difficult to get into the industry without a relative, an uncle or something as an introduction. But for the last two decades, things are changing. I’m sure “The Three Amigos” helped to make things this way.
Are you working on something new at the moment?
Not yet. Maybe I want to do something international, in English or in Europe would be nice. Maybe a Fassbinder-type film, in German?
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