Jimena Montemayor “This Project is soaked in the mourning of my father’s death”
The seed for the second film by director Jimena Montemayor, Restos de viento (Wind Traces), can be found in the personal mourning for two of her cousins’ losses, but her own father’s passing during the time the script was being written added a secondary dimension to the story: the child and the adult perspectives are both present. For this reason, the movie has been filmed with a double perspective: the language of children that belongs to the world of the two child characters, with a hand-held camera, and the language of the mother, with more open and fixed shots.
In this drama, Argentinian actress Dolores Fonzi portrays a widow who, confronted with the loss of her husband, falls into alcoholism and its promise of oblivion. Unable to process her own pain and unable to help her children through theirs, she tells them that their father will return, an illusion which is increased by the appearance of a strange create that reminds the viewer of classical literary beings from children’s books, such as Where the Wild Things Are, by Maurice Sendak, or A Monster Calls by Ness Patrick.
The tradition of the Death’s Day transmits a very festive culture of mourning in Mexico. How does the mourning portrayed in your film break away from the topics of your country’s society?
The character of Carmen, portrayed by Dolores Fonzi, is a foreigner living in Mexico. Therefore, this tradition is not part of her culture. The celebration of the Día de Muertos is absolutely beautiful and takes place during two days in the month of October, but having this celebration and ritual does not make the process of loss and the daily adjustments hurt any less.
The initial idea for this story started with your personal mourning for your cousins’ loss of their parents. How did you work on the script with them?
This story took many years of writing, from the first script to the filming. When I finished the first version of the script, my father got sick and two of my younger cousins lost their fathers. The following year, the three of us lived our personal mourning, each one very different from the other. I observed them and we spoke a lot about how they each felt about the loss of their respective fathers. I spoke to them about the characters in my story and how they could help them overcome this process and they helped me give voice to Daniel and Ana.
How has your work researching the trauma of adolescents who have been trafficked assisted your process?
The work with adolescents didn’t specifically help me for this script. I had previously worked with children with congenital heart diseases and that project did open doors towards the imagery and symbolisms of children that are suffering from physical and emotional risk. During that time, I watched them either become stronger or hide in their imagination and saw how, when they go through difficult moments, they have to develop wisdom and a symbolic use of emotions that is very advanced for their age.
To what extent is [the movie] a personal mourning exorcism after your father’s death?
My personal mourning and many others’ is portrayed largely in this project. Many of the people in the team had lived through the death of parents or family members, and each one of us added that absence to the film. But the story wasn’t born from that mourning, it had been written long before and I had to pass through that process to really understand it and to be able to convey it from a different place.
The child in the movie receives an unexpected visit, that goes beyond the limits of reality and his imagination, did you have any literary references such as those in Where the Wild Things Are, by Maurice Sendak, or A Monster Calls by Ness Patrick when you developed this character?
None of the books were references, but the film of Where the Wild Things Are was. The film of A Monster Calls was released when Restos de Viento was in post-production, but they are clearly similar and I loved everything about it. I would’ve loved to have read the book, but I haven’t.
How did the collaboration with Dolores Fonzi come up? Why did you decide to incorporate an Argentinian character?
I really like Argentinian filmmaking and Dolores Fonzi is a wonderful actress. I wanted to work the character of Carmen as someone that is disconnected from the country where the story takes place, where the absences become larger and the links to the world are more fragile.
What does this participation tell us about the synergies in Latin American filmmaking?
For me it was a satisfying learning and collaborative experience. Frankly, I hope to have more projects where this [situation] can happen again.
The film is linked to a temporary limbo in a Mexican province. How did you force the photography and production design so the audience is not able to identify the time setting of the action?
The limbo of the story was a work of the clothing design and art design departments, where we decided upon some time frames we wanted to play with and we selected some designs and classical furniture that has been used in subsequent decades. We tried to do the same with the textile material and the toys, which were a lot more difficult because the changes were a lot more radical.
The photography work portrays two languages: the children’s world language, with a hand-held camera, and the mother’s world, with open and fixed shots. What indications did you give and what decisions did you make with the film’s Director of Photography?
María Secco was the Director of Photography and we worked together for many months, looking for references, speaking about our childhoods and different atmospheres. I wanted childhood to be portrayed through nostalgia, as we’ve all been children, but we seem to forget our childhood when we try to communicate with children. We started form this idea, trying to remember how the view of a child is, curious, always moving, and recreate it in contrast with the adult gaze, that tends to become sterner and, in the case of Carmen, is paralyzed and refuses to accept the death of her husband.
As far as I know, your future film will be very different from your previous work. It is an adaptation of a posthumous novel written by your father and titled Las mujeres del alba (The Women of Dawn), what interested you of this story about an uprising?
Las mujeres del alba tells the story of the first uprising of the Mexican guerilla from the point of view of the women, adolescents and girls that participated in it. It has some elements of magical realism and several narrative voices, so, although the topic is very different, there are several elements that link with my previous work. It is a much more ambitious and complex film than all of my previous ones.