VIFF 2019 Interview: IN THE SHADOW OF GUACARI director Greg Méndez López

“I think that cinema is a powerful tool to explore other realities, and this short film is a window to a unique universe of my country. In the shadow of Guacari is a story about the value of a promise and friendship, but in the middle of a context full of traditional songs and very peculiar geography that gives the work a sense of nature.” Director Greg Méndez López on IN THE SHADOW OF GUACARI which screens at the 2019 edition of VIFF! 

Congratulations on your film playing and welcome to VIFF! Is your first time here and are you planning to attend your screenings?

Yes, it’s my first movie here. I also plan to attend Vancouver.

So how did you get into this business? Talk to me a bit about how you got your start and what you have worked on in the past.

I am a filmmaker graduated from film school in Colombia, This is really my first cinematographic work as a professional. However, he had previously made several documentaries for national television.

How did this project come together for you? Give me a rundown from the preparation, to shooting, to post-production to now!

This project is really meaningful to me, it’s a story I made after recognizing the region where I was born. For a while I was looking to do something that reflected the soul of this place, one day I visited the big tree of the movie and decided to write a story around this tree.

It was very difficult to film in this region because it is a large aquifer that does not have good access roads. Something in which we made our effort was to represent the nature of the place through some technical aspects of the film, especially in the edition, when we made the sound design our goal was to recreate the sound atmosphere of the place, the same with the color grading.

What keeps you going while making a movie? What drives you? How much coffee/sugar/tea?

I am very motivated by a creative spirit that is inside me and shouts “I want to go out”. I confess that sometimes YES, some coffee without sugar with poison… whiskey.

What was your biggest challenge with this project, and the moment that was the most rewarding to you?

The biggest challenge was the final scene, the actor is a natural actor, a Colombian farmer who did not like to be seen crying, however, with much preparation we managed to see him cry in the filming.

The most rewarding moment was at the end of the premiere at Sundance, it was the closing short film of the program and we were in a completely full theater, when the short film ended, people cheered and I could see that some in the audience were crying. For me, it was the result of much effort.

I’m about to get technical, but I would love to know about the visual design of the movie; what camera did you film with, your relationship to the director of photography and how the movie was photographed. 

We filmed with a Black Magic Ursa Mini, the image was very important, more than half of the short was filmed in sunrises or sunsets, we were looking for a perfect light. The relationship with the DP was very close, and he responded very well to my needs.

What are you looking forward to the most about showing your movie here in Vancouver?

I hope that the public can truly enjoy it, and see that side of our humanity that is exposed in the universe of this short film.

After the film screens at Vancouver, where is the film going to show next? Theatrical, online, more festivals?

It will be in more festivals, and next year on some digital streaming platforms. 

What would you say to someone who was being disruptive through a movie?

I understand if you have very important things to talk about, or that you should message in those moments, but in a movie theater, you must respect because there are people who really do want to see the movie.

We have a lot of readers on our site looking to make movies or get into the industry somehow. What is the ONE THING you would say to someone who is wanting to get into the filmmaking business?

I would tell you that you must be very sincere with yourself and must listen to your soul.

And final question: what is the greatest movie you have ever seen?

I think it is very difficult to define a favorite, but the way it is made and is loaded with a great sense of naturalness and humanity, makes me really liked Terrence Malick’s Days Of Heaven.

For this and more movies playing at this year’s Vancouver International Film Festival, point your browser to www.viff.org

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