“Workforce,” the first feature from Mexican writer-director David Jonana, had its world premiere in the platform category in Toronto, played in main competition at San Sebastian and is now hailed as the most valuable Mexican film of 2019, nailing Mexico’s moral shortcomings.
Jonah’s follow-up, “Heroic,” is produced by Michele Franco (“Workforce,” “After Lucia,” “Chronic,” “New Order”) and sold to Wild Bunch Intl. . This is another trend in modern day Mexico.
The film is produced by Wild Bunch Intl. shared an exclusive first look at the poster of “Veer”. diversity.
Nations are defined by their institutions, Machiavelli argued. If so, the Mexican Army’s Heroic Military Academy, located in the country’s West Point or Sandhurst, underscores the “heroic” situation Mexico is in. At length – a nifty 88 minutes – though big on concept, it introduces Luis, a Nahuatl who enrolls at the Heroic Military College in Mexico. He faces institutionalized violence designed to make him the perfect soldier, even as he tries to fight back.
Produced by Franco Teorema, Mexico’s Filmdora and CTT and Rent and Sweden’s Common Ground Pictures and regional fund Film i Vast, “Heroic” is backed by Mexican film institute Imcin Foquin investment and Eficin 189 tax break backing. diversity Talked to Jonana about her second feature.
Europe and the United States were forged by their industrial revolution and the rise of capitalism. A key element of Mexico, by contrast, seems to be “heroic,” its native violence, which stretches back to Aztec times.s
Mexico suffers from an undeniable identity crisis. Since the Spanish conquest, the Western world has tried to suppress any sign of dissent, especially among indigenous peoples. Although the film doesn’t address it directly, when you talk about Mexico’s military you can’t ignore the marginal state, lack of opportunity, poverty, violence and questions of indigenous identity. I have tried to reflect this in “Veerangana”.
Any military academy-set movie instantly draws comparisons to Forebears’ dazzling canon of early expansion in “Full Metal Jacket.” “Heroic” soon evolved into a very different proposition.
All films have stories told, yet all films are unique. I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t inspired by the grand masters of cinema who made army movies. Yet at the same time I tried to tell a specific story, about modern Mexico, its economic and social backwardness, violence and close ties to military institutions. Not just on a macro level but on an intimate, psychological level. Perhaps that makes the film special. I hope so too.
A subtext, for example, is an analysis of why young Mexicans are enrolling in such a brutal military program. You provide at least two answers: poverty and, for Mexico’s indigenous communities, respect.
Mexico’s militarization permeates the everyday life of its civil society. Its social and political relevance is unprecedented. However, as a society, we tend to draw conclusions from what we see in the media or on the web: violence, military-cartel clashes, human rights abuses. This readily available information, while important, is for me only the tip of the iceberg, one side of the coin. The big picture questions can only be understood and discussed if you dig deep, understand the roots and humanize all the people who join the armed forces. What drives them? What was their purpose? What was their social and economic status before joining? What other options did they have? Once these questions are resolved, we can know what soldiers, cadets, officers live through during training. Only in this way can we fully understand and bring to the table such an urgent problem in Mexico and perhaps in other countries as well.
Any such tendency to adopt violence and blind loyalty needs to be grounded in facts. How did you want to achieve in “heroism”?
Mexico’s military establishment is truly hermetic. Very little information exists. What it does is vague and biased. For our society to address such sensitive issues – and certainly to lift the lid on hidden things – comes with a responsibility. We have seriously, thoroughly researched the issues. I took some liberties. The whole process took time. We approach the issue from different angles. Most important, undoubtedly, was gathering the testimonies of dozens of people who had served in the military—their experiences and openness to sharing them proved invaluable. Most of the characters in the film are played by ex-cadets, ex-soldiers. It helps with authenticity and objectivity, fundamental to the kind of cinema I enjoy and want to make.
“Viriya” confirms some of the stylistic hallmarks expected of “Workforce”: static wide shots, key acts of violence taking place off-camera…
Directors gradually find their tone and language. Each creator has a different sensibility. I’m not surprised by their similarity in style between my first and second features. The question for me is about growing, expanding my narrative potential, refining my voice. That’s a never-ending road.
You worked as an associate producer on Lucia Films with Michel Franco and now on “600 Miles” with Teorema, co-producer of “Chronic,” which premiered in 2015, and executive producer on 2017’s “April’s Daughter.” did and you spent the last five years writing, directing and producing your first two features. Is this where you see your future?
Starting my career with a person like Michelle was invaluable to me. As you may remember, I started producing and slowly started to explore my own story telling, my creative side and my relevant topics. But, at 33 years old, I can’t write anything, nor any creative media or collaboration with other creators. I want to grow, contribute and create material that is relevant in the modern world. There is much to say.