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Filmmaker Reignites Cinema Verité With 'Alamar'

10 Jan, 2011 By: Billy Gil


Pedro González-Rubio takes a unique approach to filmmaking with Alamar, on DVD Jan. 11 from Film Movement, at $24.95.

The film follows a boy (Natan Machado Palombini) and his father (Jorge Machado) playing alternate versions of themselves (as they are a real-life son and father) spending time together before being separated after a divorce. The father, of Mayan heritage, takes his half-Italian son to live simply, as fishermen, near Mexico’s Banco Chinchorro coral reef. Alamar creates a lush film world out of the real father-son bond as it exists in the film’s gorgeous natural setting.

I spoke with the Mexican-born director about his filmmaking process.

IndieFile: So tell me about the making of Alamar. I’ve read a bit about it, that you filmed this father and son doing tasks and so it was fiction based on reality. Was there a script guiding you?


Pedro González-Rubio
Pedro González-Rubio

González-Rubio: There was no conventional script. I was being guided by a story treatment based on the location, the main activities of the fishermen living there, the story of Jorge, Roberta and Natan, and, finally, my own anxieties regarding all of these. But all the dialogues and all the ways of resolving the scenes were decided on location, on the spot.

IndieFile: How much extra footage did you take? And will any of that make it onto the DVD or another release sometime?

González-Rubio: There are a couple of great scenes that didn't make the film in my final cut, but will be available on the DVD. In them you can see the electricity between the camera, the natural elements and the characters. One of the scenes starts with a full shot of a hermit crab’s shell. At the beginning, we just listen to the movement of a small eolic turbine, the body is motionless, and, after several seconds, the shell is lifted up by the fragile body of this beautiful hermit crab. What happens next is a ballet between nature and the protagonists of the film. This I am very excited to share it on the DVD.

IndieFile: You also did the making-of featurette for Babel. As a filmmaker, what you think of going behind-the-scenes of a narrative film and also what you bring to something like that as a documentarian?

González-Rubio: Babel was a big school for me. I was very close in the process of the director and every choice he had to make regarding the creative issues of the film. I was invited to do the making-of in Babel because of my personal documentary approach with my camera and the characters that I am photographing. I like them to feel comfortable with the presence of a lens aiming at them. Then for Alamar, I think I was able to try some mise en scene that fiction requires but maintaining the freshness of the spontaneity in doc genre.

IndieFile: Alamar’s creation seems to be unique. Do you hope to keep making films such as this, that are part narrative, part documentary? What other genres could you envision?

González-Rubio: I want to maintain my own personal exploration of the film language, but that doesn’t mean I will have a specific categorization for my films. I am guided by intuition rather than by formulas or preconceived styles. I film from my heart.

IndieFile: How did you meet Jorge and Natan? Is their real-life story anything like the movie?

González-Rubio: Even though it feels like Jorge comes from the area where the film is shot, it’s not true. He comes from a village in Chiapas and was working as a tour guide in the touristic spot of Tulum when I met him. They are not portraying a character as an actor would do, they are portraying themselves but the film gives them the opportunity to live a different situation from their daily lives.

IndieFile: Would you ever like to revisit this film and give a behind-the-scenes look at it?

González-Rubio: I think I’d like to do something else with different people. If you look at my first feature length (documentary Toro Negro, unreleased in the United States), it is very different from Alamar. I like to step away and discover something new for me. Kind of like children do, otherwise I would get bored very rapidly and would just be a cheap copy of my own self.

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