Over the next month, we at IDA will be introducing our community to the filmmakers whose work is represented in the DocuWeeks™ Theatrical Documentary Showcase, which runs from August 3 through August 30 in New York City and Los Angeles. We asked the filmmakers to share the stories behind their films—the inspirations, the challenges and obstacles, the goals and objectives, the reactions to their films so far.
So, to continue this series of conversations, here is Everardo González, director of Drought/Cuates de Australia.
Synopsis: Residents from the ejido (communal land) Los Cuates de Australia in Northeast Mexico perform every year a massive exodus to look for water during drought. In this exile, men, women, elders, and children wait for the first drops of water to return to their lands, metaphor of a small town that hides from death.
IDA: You’ve been working in film for a number of years now. What got you started in the documentary world?
Everardo González I arrived to the world of documentaries by accident; it wasn’t really in my plans. I was training as a photographer and I came across an exercise in film school that became my first film (La canción del pulque / The Song of Pulque, 2003). I found through documentary possibility of narrating cinematographic chronicles and I loved it.
IDA: I watched you speak on the Cafe Latino panel during the Los Angeles Film Festival about Drought and what it’s like to be a part of the Latino filmmaking community. While there, you said you made this film partially because you wanted to get away from your everyday life in Mexico City. How did you get in touch with the migrant farming community in Cuates de Australia?
EG: Filming Drought became a kind of retirement. I was simultaneously filming another documentary (El cielo abierto / The Open Sky, 2011) that traced the beginning of the civil war in El Salvador and the assassination of Archbishop Oscar Arnulfo Romero.
The filming of this movie was quite painful, the war stories were heartbreaking. When I finished filming for a bit in Central America, I traveled to Cuates de Australia to continue the project and the time of isolation and distance from such war stories made the filming of Drought a moment of peace.
I arrived to Cuates de Australia from 2004 and I kept the story until 2007, which was the year I began filming. From that moment, my relationship with the cowboys of Coahuila began to break distance.
IDA: While on the panel, you also mentioned that the community was never totally united in their enthusiasm for having you there. What were some tense moments that you can remember while shooting?
EG: There were always mixed opinions about my presence at the ranch, those who did not want me there and who opened the doors of their homes. Working for four years made those who were against it, little by little, accept me. I ended up being accepted by the community.
A tense moment was during the horse races that were organized to celebrate the baptism of children. Some had drunk beer and were more aggressive, a fight broke out and some of the hits were against me and my crew. That sequence was included in the final cut.
IDA: A scene that really stood out for me was the one in which a boy drinks so much water that it makes him literally sick. We see him run outside of the house to vomit. This community has a relationship with water that is so different from anything most of us have ever experienced. Can you expand on that?
EG: "Entripar" is a card game played in the Northeast area of Mexico, whoever loses must drink two glasses of water until they get sick. It is not exclusive to this ranch, it’s played throughout this region. I think that the relationship with water is the same as everyone; the only difference is that their water supply ends, and they somehow experience the scarcity first hand, not as a potential threat but rather as a close reality.
IDA: Did your vision of the project change over the course of production?
EG: The project was taking shape over the months of filming, the story of the exodus and drought remained but more concepts were added such as the cycle of life and the confrontation between man and his environment.
IDA: As you’ve screened Drought, how have audiences reacted?
EG: The audiences have been surprised by the amount of happiness these cowboys are capable of even while facing adversity; this is the most hopeful aspect of the story.
IDA: After the film’s win at the Los Angeles Film Festival and now its inclusion at DocuWeeks, this film is having quite a year! So what’s next for you?
EG: I am currently working on finding distribution of the film in the U.S., and I hope that my participation in DocuWeeks helps me achieve that.
Drought will be screening August 10 through 16 at IFC Center in New York, and August 17 through 23 at Laemmle NoHo 7 in Los Angeles.