10th Annual Cine LatinoIn Focus: Amir Galvan & Mitzi Vanessa Arreola

November 6, 2017
By Jan Willms
Subject: Amir Galvan, Co-Director of The 4th Company

Filmmaker Amir Galvan considers his profession to be a paradox

The co-director of the epic Mexican crime film, The 4th Company, said that filmmaking is a profession that gives a very privileged perspective no one has. “Today you could be shooting in a dangerous neighborhood with a criminal gang, tomorrow you could be eating caviar in a private jet with a sultan. Unemployed and depressed in the morning, you wanted to throw yourself on the train tracks. In the afternoon you’re parading on the red carpet with hundreds of journalists and applause. It is a job that makes you experience the far ends of life temporarily…without making your destiny tied to anything,” Galvan said.

Galvan said that his process of making fiction has a total documentary approach. “Both Vanessa (Arreola, his co-director) and I believe in immersive creative processes. If you want to build your own believable fictional universe, you have to know everything about that universe itself.”

“To shoot a prison film such as The 4th Company, we had to go every two days to a prison for two years. The scriptwriting, field research and film conceptualization were done at the same time, so we were able to observe every square inch of that universe and then recreate everything when technicians, actors, costumes and trucks full of equipment arrived.”

According to Galvan, their intention was to transport the audience inside an unknown world as if they were watching a documentary film. “Then we used information and images found in libraries, newspaper archives and stock footage to fill another part of the picture and build a bigger Truth,” he said.

Galvan said he identifies himself with two types of filmmakers: those who use in their stories autobiographical elements, like Francois Truffaut, Jean Claude Lauzon or Woody Allen and those who take to the end the metaphor of the madman who wants to cross the boat over a mountain. In the latter group, he cites Werner Herzog, Francis Ford Coppola, Stanley Kubrick and James Cameron.

“I also admire the film work and storytelling of Martin Scorsese, Tom Tykwer, Clint Eastwood, Wim Wenders, Fernando Meirelles and Alfonso Cuaron, among many,” he said.

Subject: Mitzi Vanessa Arreola, Co-Director of The 4th Company

Mitzi Vanessa Arreola began her path toward making films when she was only 12. “This became more constant with time, and I have gained certain skills along the way,” she said. “It’s known as experience.”

Arreola is co-director, producer, writer and editor of the award-winning Mexican crime film The 4th Company. “I think that making films is like love,” she reflected. “The meaningful experiences are those that define you and are decisive. The rest mark you to some extent…”

Reflecting on the greatest challenge of making The 4th Company, Arreola said it was maintaining the focus and conviction over several years to enhance the creative process in the most difficult and adverse periods. “Paradoxically, what I liked the most was all that I learned because of how difficult it was. This learning is two-sided in professional and human terms,” she added.

She said that Latino filmmakers, although united by language and history, come from different countries and their film making is diverse… “Without a doubt, these are the leaders, those who decide not to make concessions. You can see the rigor, courage and risk in the work of Latino filmmakers. For me, they are reference points, and I would like to think they are attracting an ever-wider audience.”

Her view of the future for Latino filmmakers is that foreign cinema predominates all over the world. “There is no origin, no language, affinity or initiative that joins and brings us together to circulate cinema in our language throughout our countries. From my point of view, this is both the present and future,” she said.