With Guatemala as this year’s guest country at the 8th Guadalajara International Film Festival (FICG), the festival will screen more than a dozen films from this tiny Central American country, including his most recent standout, Justin Lerner’s “Cadejo” Blanco. “The women-driven crime drama is on stage at its world premiere stages October festival where it competes in the official Ibero-American feature category.
Although born in Boston, Larner had a deep relationship with Guatemala, where he also proposed to his French-American wife at the edge of the volcano. More importantly, he helped create a film school there in 2016 where he was its first film professor. While teaching there, one of his students introduced him to the Caribbean coastal city of Puerto Barrios, where “Cadazo Blanco” is mainly held.
For two years, he visited the city and interviewed his young men, many of whom were associated with gangs, collected their life stories, and eventually cast any of them to act in his own version of what he began to write. “They were involved with the script during the process, editing and correcting to make sure it was authentic,” Lerner said.
Though fictional, “Cadizo Blanco” reveals its seedbed in what Larner considers to be one of the most beautiful places in Guatemala. The white ‘Cadejo’ in the title is a mythical four-legged animal, a cross between a wolf and a dog, which protects humans from harm.
Karen Martinez, of Guatemalan descent who starred in “La Joula de Oro”, who won the award for her performance at the 2013 Cannes on Serten Readers, played the role of Sarita, who went to Puerto Barrios in search of her missing sister, where her sister’s boyfriend, Gang members, life. She risks her life to infiltrate the gang and eventually finds out the truth behind her sister’s disappearance.
Most of the actors are non-professionals, former gang members who highlight both the innocence and humor of youth because they commit violent crimes to survive their jungle war.
“Cadejo Blanco is more about a young woman’s transformation,” Larner said, adding that Sarita wanted a bond for her sister – or perhaps revenge.
The play is Lerner’s third film but outside the United States he first filmed in Spanish “Guatemalan crew is the best to work with me in terms of talent, skills and qualifications.” “They work hard, are serious but know how to have fun; There was a big feeling of family, it didn’t feel like work. With the exception of his Argentine DP, Roman Caserola (“Cocot,” “A Mother”), the rest of his department head and crew were Guatemalan residents, many of whom have trained in multiple TV commercials, documentaries and shorts that have been filmed there.
“In any shooting, there will be a Central American crew member,” said Joaquin Ruano, head of the Guatemalan Commission for Film Festivals, quoting the Nicaraguan-set “Daughter of Rage,” which won the Latam WIP Award in San Sebastian. “It had at least eight Guatemalan crews,” he noted.
“Most of the film’s funding is from Guatemala, which is quite unusual,” said Mauricio Escobar, producer of La Danta Films, who agreed with Larner about the quality of the Guatemalan crew. “Justin is a great leader and how to inspire people,” he added.
Escobar has worked at “La Lorona” in Jayaro Bustamante, which has multiple nominees for this year’s Madrid Primos Platino in Madrid and Guatemala’s Rdth Academy Awards. It also appears in Guadalajara as part of the preview.
Filmmaker Cesar Diaz, winner of the Cannes 2019 Critics Week Grand Prize and Camera D’Or, Blanco, a partner in his drama “Our Mothers” (“Nuestras Madres”), a partner of La Danta Films and the editor and executive producer of “Cadejo”. “
Despite the worldwide recognition and appreciation of the film, led by Diaz and Bustamant, Guatemalan filmmakers receive no state support. There is no film law yet. “These films reveal the country’s problems so the state is not interested in supporting them,” Ruano said, acknowledging that the commission he conducted was carried out at the invitation of Guadalajara.
When the Guatemalan Minister of Culture did not respond to Guadalajara’s invitation, they saw the need to set up the commission, the Guatemalan Association of Audiovisual and Cinematography, the new Guatemalan Academy of Cinematographic Arts and Sciences as the head of the country, F.A. Coordinating participation.
Despite the lack of state support, Guatemala is giving birth to a new generation of filmmakers, producing an average of eight films a year, Ruano insisted. “Cadazo Blancozo” quotes Tarasena (“El Cilencio del Topo”), Anna Isabel Bustamante (“La Asfixia”), Camilla Urutia (“Polvora NL Corazon”), Isabel Acevedo (“El Buen Cristiano”) As, among others.
The Guatemala-US-Mexico co-production, officially presented at TIFF Industry Selects in September, was revived by Trevor Growth’s 30 West in the United States and by Wazabi Films in the rest of the world.
It is co-produced by Imperial Entertainment, La Danta Films and The Orange Company Cine Carib.
FICG36 runs until October 1-9.