A Bloomberg Businessweek story proclaimed michelle garza (Mexico City, 1987) as “the new jewel of Mexican cinema.” She doesn’t feel like one: “Ugh, for me it’s strong. For me, who is just going through my first film, it is important to take the little steps”. Garza came to Lima to present “Huesera” at the Lima Film Festival in a night performance. That night, the gigantic Sala NOS of the Católica was half full. The director was not well known and many did not know what to expect from “Huesera”. After the successful screening, Garza has been one of the most sought after at the festival.
“Huesera” is a horror story filmed from a gender perspective. Most of the technical staff are women and in the story, on screen, there are also only a few men.
The plot takes place in today’s Mexico: Valeria (Natalia Solián) is a young wife who longs to be a mother with her handsome and ideal husband, Raúl (Alfonso Dosal). But Valeria feels dark and ghostly presences around her that threaten her and her baby. Are they really external entities or does evil dwell within them?
The story oscillates between various registers and explores themes such as the renunciation of the rebellion of adolescence in search of ‘maturity’, motherhood, sexual identity, family relationships and the underworld of the Mexican punk scene. All in one. We spoke with Garza days after the screening.
Trailer for “Huesera”
—Was the reception at “Huesera” what you expected?
“It always surprises.” I have had the opportunity to see the film with audiences from very different places, very far away from me. In the case of Peru, I feel much closer than the other audiences with which we have presented, obviously because it is Latin America, but the truth is always a surprise. It is incredible to see how the reactions are different, the concerns, the questions. It’s super exciting and makes me curious about how the filters, that each person has, see a work that I perceive in a very personal way in a completely different way.
—In your own words, what is “Huesera” about?
—It talks about when you go through a tortuous, painful process, which often happens in life, but you have to go through it to learn something about yourself. The film is inspired by a family situation in which a story was hidden from me. In the houses, there are stories that are not told, which are the taboos, which are the uncomfortable silence in the family scene; and the specific case of this story, in my family, there was a question regarding a familiar character and that, finally, I was given the opportunity to tell.
—Part of how well the story works is the choice of your actress, Natalia Solián, who has a very expressive face. She reminds me of a Fiona Apple in a Latin version.
—I was fortunate to have a great casting director, Rocio Belmont, and, in fact, she is one of the witches who appears at the end. In the case of Natalia, it was almost immediately that I knew it was her (for the role). It is one of those cases… It is a strange thing that she has in her eyes: with a small reaction, which seems minimal, she expresses something huge. I had already seen it before in the theater a couple of years before and it had also generated a brutal impression on me. I remember I went out and googled her right away, I wanted to know who she was. This is her first leading role.
—“Huesera” has false leads. At the beginning, we see a Virgin of Guadalupe on fire, and one thinks: “Ah, this will be something satanic”; And it is not like that. Where does it come from to play with the dualities of what may or may not be happening?
—One of my favorite genres in cinema. What has influenced me the most is the psychological horror. Polanski’s trilogy of “Rosemary’s Baby,” “Repulsion” and “The Lodger,” and the like, those kinds of movies where you build up an accumulating sense that something is wrong, genuinely wrong, and a lot of times you don’t know if it is something that actually exists in the world or if it is particular to the character. Together with my screenwriter, we are proud because we never wanted to make it clear if what happens is from his (Valeria’s) mind.
—In Peru, the bonesetter is an informal chiropractor. Do you plan to change the title to make it more understandable? The film is based on a popular Mexican myth.
—The truth is that I find it funny because it works very well for me, because that also means in Mexico. I mean, we also use the word ‘huesera’ or ‘bonesero’ for someone who goes and adjusts you. For me, it’s what the huesera does when it thunders to accommodate you, it’s perfect because that’s exactly what the movie is about. In other words, it is a being that is a woman who is facing an entity that, literally, breaks her, her bones thunder. I love the title and I never want to have to change it; I already saw that they changed it in Korea, they put it as “Tomb of bones” or something like that, and I didn’t even know.
—The gender component is strong: most of the production staff and cast are women. This decision was, I understand, very important to you. Can you tell us a little about that?
“Look, actually, I never set out to do it. It was not like saying: “The majority of the club has to be women”. In fact, there were many men in the team and also dissidents: I loved that. But really, I think it has to do with what made sense; that is, if (she is) a creative collaborator, for example, in the case of the cinematographer, her sensitivity has to do (with) the world, with the theme of the film as well.
“I see your tattoo on your arm, I see your modification on your ear. In the film, Valeria has a rock past and wears a Cure polo shirt. Is it a tribute to your adolescence, to your own past?
—It’s interesting because for me it was important, since it was my debut feature, to give a representation to what it is like to live in the middle class of Mexico City and to show how it is so complex, how in the same day you go through such contrasting worlds, so different, and it is very inspired by me for how I have inhabited my city. And a large part of my life in particular was punk and, obviously, what I gave the character has also been a shelter for me at many times in my life.
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