Carlitos Ruiz Ruiz's debut feature Lovesickness (Maldeamores) deals with the universal theme of love in very Puerto Rican terms. For Ruiz, 'It's a slice of our Latin idiosyncrasies which also shows how intense and intensely flawed love can be.'
Having received a bachelors degree in photography from the Art Institute of Chicago in 1998, Ruiz returned to Puerto Rico to do commercial work when a chance meeting with Benicio Del Toro - who would become the film's executive producer - in 2000 pushed him towards Lovesickness.
'I'd given him my short, Paper Ball,' remembers Ruiz, 'and he called me two days later, wanting to work together and telling me to make a feature.'
In 2002, Ruiz brainstormed with his wife, Mariem Perez Riera, the film's editor and co-director, and his brother, Luillo Ruiz, the film's producer, for a theme and structure. Inspired by Robert Altman's Short Cuts, Ruiz sought to combine various storylines - about an older couple, a married couple and young couple - to explore the same theme of love gone bad.
Ruiz finished the script in 2002 and spent two years finding finance. UK-based Buena Onda came on board as producer, enabling Ruiz to tap a number of new government sources.
The Puerto Rican Film Commission and Department of Labour fronted up to 80% of the $1.2m budget, with Buena Onda providing 20%. There is a new financial landscape for Puerto Rican film: 'Before there was one feature made every five years,' explains Ruiz, 'but in the last few years, nine films are being made.'
Ruiz wants to create a film style that speaks to his culture. For the cast, they picked up actors such as Luis Guzman, known worldwide as well as to Puerto Rican and Cuban audiences.
For the 20-day shoot, in locations throughout the island, Ruiz shot in Super 16 to bring out the area's colour. For Ruiz, 'Lovesickness makes reference to the Italian Neo Realism and the New Latin American Cinema of the '70s. These movements were about countries looking for their own voice on films, getting away from the Hollywood formula.'