The director looks back at his first big time film and the man who made it all possible
I guess in Mexico, the power goes out a lot; and when that happens, it's up to the people to entertain themselves. Fernando Eimbcke found this subject very close to his heart, so he decided to write a script about it called Duck Season. He finally got enough money to shoot it, but it wasn't until it was entered at the Cannes Film Festival that it was discovered. But he could never have dreamed of who discovered it - Alfonso Cuaron.
Cuaron found this story charming and knew it had to be distributed, so he founded a company and made it his first film under the new Esperanto Films Company. Alfonso was almost hesitant to pick it up, but not for the normal reasons - it was just too good. "For the first 10-15 minutes, I was just so jealous about it. I was just hating these guys. I said, 'I should have done that movie. Look at that. It's amazing.' Then the good thing is that G-d gave us admiration and I changed envy to admiration; your heart opens and then you just enjoy the whole thing. I finished watching the movie, loving the film and became a huge fan of the film and a huge fan of Fernando. The film is very deceptive because it could look like something very simple and it's a very complex film. It could look as a tiny movie in which not much happens and thematically I think everything happens. It's rare when you find a film like this. So I saw the film, I thought it was a film that audiences deserve to see."
Having Alfosno backing Fernando has been beyond the young filmmaker's wildest dreams. Alfonso really helped him out on the post production. "He's a very well known director so he's helping a lot. He's promoting it to a lot of people at Cannes and he wrote all the distributors and told them to see the film and a lot of things happened after that. The studios all saw it and the only studio that understood the black and white was Warner Independent, the same studio for Good Night, and Good Luck. It wasn't such a big issue for them. A lot of the other studios thought it was a big issue."
Yes, Duck Season is in black and white, but it doesn't distract from the actual feel of the movie. Both Fernando and Alfonso thought that was an important part of the film. That's one of the reasons why Alfonso picked it up. "It's so great because a film that is attempting to do pure cinema is taking the format that conveys pure cinema the most that is black and white and it's so fantastic. It is so timely in the sense that this happened in a moment when black and white starts to be cool again; audiences are losing the fear for black and white. More important, Warner Independent embraced the film, understood the film and went for it. I think they are showing with the Clooney film that black and white is not an issue."
When Fernando wrote the script, he had the black and white theme in mind. "It's because the story is so simple and all the things that are happening are so tiny so black and white helps people from being distracted; it helped a lot in terms of cinematography."
In the new film, two teen boys (Flama and Moko) are in the middle of an intense game of Bond on their Xbox when, sure enough, the power goes out and the tv goes off; they have to search for things to keep them busy and that's when the fun begins. They order a pizza and decide to hastle the pizza man for money; the pizza man stays at their house because he wants to be paid. (According to Fernando, that normally doesn't happen.) There's also the teen girl neighbor (Rita) who comes over to use the stove. A love connection starts to happen between Moko and Rita, definitely a clash of personalities but very well done on screen.
A lot of chemistry occurs with younger cast; to top it off, all four of the actors were new to the film business. Fernando's casting process was very difficult. "I think we made a very good decision using not a casting director, but a theater director. She helped us calling kids from all over and the second decision was to select the characters not from their training, but from the chemistry between them. We picked three Mokos and three Flamas and we mixed them and tried different mixtures. We found that with this pair they were amazing; it was magic. Rita was really a problem; we selected Rita and she was a very good actress and she came to the set and we started rehearsing, but we found the other kids weren't afraid of her so we called another Rita and I swear I saw the kids hands shaking. We thought that was Rita because they were really afraid of her. Moko and Flama stayed really afraid of Rita during the whole shoot; I tried to keep that fear in them."
Alfonso loved the young actors, but couldn't believe the way the NPAA reacted to what their interactions were. This film unfairly got an R rating, something Alfonso was not happy about. "They are so afraid of young people seeing films in which young people are portrayed the way they really are. They're okay for them to ridiculize them, to humiliate them and to show a different reality that can be even grosser and they are fine with it. There's a big fear about young people seeing themselves reflected on the big screen and I think young people are not scared, it's the older people that are scared about it. I just find this movie, R rated film? Come on. It's a film that I've seen a 10-year-old enjoying as much as a 60-year-old. Both with a frozen smile on their face and at the end of the film, both talking about the film but from completely different standpoints."
Duck Season will be released in Los Angeles and New York on March 10th; a wider release will happen in the coming weeks. The film is rated R.