A staggering who's who of Mexican talent is in production on Carlos Cuaron's feature directorial debut Rudo Y Cursi. Chiara Arroyo reports from the first leg of the shoot.
Six years after Y Tu Mama Tambien focused international attention on Mexico's film-making scene, many of the same players involved in that film are reunited on Rudo Y Cursi, which is four weeks into its seven-week shoot.
The film is directed by Carlos Cuaron, who wrote Y Tu Mama Tambien, and stars that film's lead actors Gael Garcia Bernal and Diego Luna. It also marks the first production from cha cha cha, the film-making triumvirate of Alfonso Cuaron (Carlos' brother and the director of Y Tu Mama), Alejandro Gonzalez Inarritu (Babel) and Guillermo Del Toro (Pan's Labyrinth) which was launched recently to make five films with $100m in funding from Universal Pictures.
'We founded this company to produce movies the way we always wanted,' explains Alfonso Cuaron, who stresses that creative control of the projects remains with the film-makers. Inarritu adds: 'Our relationship has merely become official. We've been helping each other since the beginning of our careers. With Rudo Y Cursi, we're involved as we have always been. We let Carlos feel free but also talk to him with total confidence.'
The other four films, some in Spanish and some in English, include directorial efforts from each partner as well as a film from Rodrigo Garcia (Nine Lives).
Rudo Y Cursi explores a relationship which veers from love to hate between two brothers who work on a banana plantation and by chance become professional soccer players. Luna, sporting black hair and a moustache, plays the character of Rudo, the older brother who is married with children. Bernal plays Cursi, who is young, free and single. Bernal will play the accordion and sing traditional northern Mexican songs (nortenas) in the film.
'The story occurred to me when we were on the road for Y Tu Mama Tambien,' explains Carlos Cuaron. 'Originally I wanted to do it as a fake documentary and there was only one character, but then it morphed into a fictional film with two.
'Three years ago, I was having dinner with Gael and Diego and told them the story and they loved the idea. This has been a very collaborative script. They have contributed a lot to the story, the script and the characters.'
Shooting began in the small coastal town of Cihuatlan, which is a spectacular location with rich vegetation and hot and humid weather. The production shot there on the beach, as well as the banana plantation owned by the Cuaron family where Alfonso and Carlos spent childhood summers. The cast and crew then move on to Mexico City and Toluca, where scenes will be shot in football stadiums, racetracks and five-star hotels.
Carlos Cuaron keeps quiet and focused on the set, apparently calm in the face of five other directors - not just his brother, Inarritu and Del Toro but also Luna and Bernal who both recently directed films. 'One day, when I was depressed because none of my scripts were being produced, Alfonso and Guillermo told me to stop screaming and complaining and encouraged me to start directing,' Carlos Cuaron says.
His producers, meanwhile, keep him focused on the creative work, to the point where he does not even know the budget of the film. 'I don't know it and I don't want to know it,' he laughs. 'I just ask if we can afford this and that.'
'It's more expensive than Y Tu Mama Tambien, because the story requires it,' is all Alfonso Cuaron will say.
'In this film, necessities and aspirations came together,' adds Universal Studios co-chairman David Linde, who sealed the cha cha cha deal after years working with the three founders on individual projects. Focus International is handling sales, with North American rights likely to be sold separately.
Diego Luna, for one, is happy with the way Y Tu Mama Tambien set the pace for the Mexican new wave. 'This film follows the same principles we followed on Y Tu Mama Tambien,' he says, 'Not only because it's how we believe films should be made, but because we have such a good time making them this way.'
Pan's Labyrinth Oscar-winner Eugenio Caballero is production designer on Rudo Y Cursi, Adam Kimmel (Capote, Lars And The Real Girl) is director of photography and Alex Rodriguez, who cut Y Tu Mama Tambien, Children Of Men and Bernal's directorial debut Deficit, is the editor.