In Lorena Padilla’s “Martinez”, an elderly office worker lives a lonely life centered on her own personal perfection, usually sitting in the park for a long time and becoming part of the landscape. Alone. Off from human contact.
“When I sent the script to Francisco Reyes, who played Martinez, I only knew him on Skype. After he read it, the first thing he asked was, ‘Who is this character really?’ When I told him, it’s my dad, he replied ‘Ah, okay, now I fully understand. “
Padilla has made a career originally digging into the complexities of history and life in Mexico, although she currently teaches screenwriting and directing at Southern Methodist University in Dallas, Texas. One of his most recent scripts was director Rodrigo Reyes’ “499”, a kind of mixed documentary that follows a winner who finds himself in modern Mexico listening to the stories of victims of violence and barbarism in their country almost half a millennium ago.
Sold by Paris-based Luxbox, “Martinez” is currently on display at the Guadalajara Festival’s Pix-in-Post showcase, the Guadalajara Construa. In Guadalajara, Padilla left the screening of “Martinez” for a quick chat. Diversity.
In Mexico, there seem to be a lot of short films and features being made about the condition of older people in this society. And these films are being made by young filmmakers. Why all the focus on the elderly?
I have lived and studied in the United States for several years and today I take filmmaking classes at Southern Methodist University. During this time, I realized that our society in Mexico has a very different relationship with the elderly. And it was further exacerbated during the epidemic when our grandparents were not allowed to visit and it was very clear that they were the most at risk of covid and we could even make them sick. Our judgments about generation differences and how they live were removed. I think young people are starting to realize that looking at them is looking at us.
Where did the story and character come from?
In the end, it’s really an exploration of my relationship with my dad. You know, when I sent the script to Francisco Reyes, who played Martinez, I only knew him on Skype. After he read it, the first thing he asked was, ‘Who is this character really?’ When I told him it was my dad, he replied ‘Ah, okay, now I fully understand.’ My dad is a very close man, and I don’t think he’s going to change, but he can. Martinez is a closed person, but he was able to open his mouth during the filming. But I think of people who are getting older and isolating themselves. What will happen to them? The death of Martinez’s neighbor was based on the true story of a London woman who died and was not discovered for two years. In the picture, I shortened it from two years to six months because friends who read the script said that two years is not believable. But it is true. Which is more unfamiliar than fiction, right? Having said all this, I have to say that I am Martinez too. You know how you start talking about someone else and then discover that you are talking about yourself?
There are hilarious elements in Martinez, many scenes where the character Martinez is relaxing together or taking care of himself alone and of course there are some conflicts. If you could show Martinez as a movie character in terms of character, if that were possible?
Well, I would call it comedy, very dark comedy or, perhaps, drama more accurate. You know, I try to write plays and it’s always ridiculous. At least, that’s ridiculous. I realize that what I think is ridiculous is not always what other people think is funny.
Is the film an accurate representation of the screenplay?
Not at all. I enjoy destroying my scripts when I’m directing, which is kind of weird because I’m a writer. I teach film directing at SMU and I basically tell my students: ‘That’s how I direct.’ I start with the script but when we’re on set, I know the story so well that I can interrupt it without changing the course of the story. This allows me to improve the actors as well as take advice from other people working on the set.