July 22, 2013

Thought Versus Fact: The Changing Face of Documentary Film - An Interview with Rodrigo Reyes

Three men try desperately to pull a beat-up van out of the sands of the Mexican desert as the sun rapidly sinks over a marked drugrunning route. Sounds like a good scene for a film, but as it turns out, it's the production of Purgatorio: A Journey Into the Heart of the Border, a new film on the vanguard of genre-pushing documentaries. After premiering his film to sold-out crowds at the LA Film Festival and being named one of this year's 25 New Faces of Independent Film, self-taught director Rodrigo Reyes sat down with No Film School to talk about everything from cinema lenses and shooting rules he made himself stick to during production, to the cuteness of Gael García Bernal, to how certain documentaries are pushing the form of cinema as a whole.

Most of us have a tendency -- to grab the camera and just get as close to the action as possible, and just get everything -- I decided what I needed -- was to force myself to compose a shot and make a commitment to the point of view in the scene.

Want to hear the details of what self-imposed rules helped him make this "starkly beautiful" film? Check out the interview for yourself! There's a trailer in there to wet your whistle --

Thank you, Rodrigo!

What do you think about the self-imposed shooting limitations that Rodrigo talks about? Have you seen any documentaries lately that have been pushing the form?

Link: Purgatorio: A Journey Into the Heart of the Border

Your Comment

12 Comments

I thought it was a great doc, but as for the style of it, it looks like a standard European made piece.
I realise that it is a different style from the 'in your face' or Moore-style insertion favored by young American doc makers, but this is how we were taught to do it, or imitated in our own way.
Treat every shot as photography.
It takes discipline, as he mentions.

Look forward to his next film.

July 22, 2013 at 11:45AM, Edited September 4, 11:21AM

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marklondon

Mark, what docs do you have in mind when you talk about standard European?

July 22, 2013 at 7:21PM, Edited September 4, 11:21AM

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Oakley Anderson-Moore
Writer
Director/Shooter/Editor

Yes, please expand on this. It's an interesting observation, as I feel that the standard European doc is not dissimilar from the standard doc everywhere.

July 23, 2013 at 4:02PM, Edited September 4, 11:21AM

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i like this interview alot, not only for the interviewee, but i also really like the interviewer. ive seen a few of her interviews, and she always asks the good questions that matter to me. always.

the only criticism i have (i hope its taken in the spirit of suggestion, because i really do like her) is that i wish she would stop saying "can you talk about". i know you want to create an opportunity to discuss and not closing potential for valuable conversation that diverges to an unpredictible path, but that term is an interruption to the viewer.

generally, its highlights an inarticulation, and inexperience of the interviewer (because its how amateurs ask a question in an interview) and i cant omit that meaning from my experience of the interview.

July 22, 2013 at 4:15PM, Edited September 4, 11:21AM

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jay

Jay, this interviewer will try really hard next time not to start with "can you talk about" at the beginning of a question. However, I can make no guarantees about "um" "errrrrrr" or any sporadic hand gestures!

July 22, 2013 at 6:51PM, Edited September 4, 11:21AM

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Oakley Anderson-Moore
Writer
Director/Shooter/Editor

Wow, if that's the only criticism, you've done well Oakley. Personally I like it when the interviewer asks questions in an open way like "talk to me about..." To me it doesn't speak of inexperience, although I'm no expert on interviewing. But I feel like I've heard a lot of seasoned professionals ask questions the same way, although perhaps I'm mistaken there as no specific examples come to mind.

July 24, 2013 at 10:15AM, Edited September 4, 11:21AM

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Brian

Oakley Anderson-Moore, thanks for posting. I absolutely loved this interview as I am heading to documentary film school in Europe this September. I could really understand where he was coming from with ideas over facts.

I tried capture the same feeling in this piece of humble work I shot a while back. I set it to the dialogue track of Blade Runner:

http://illectricsheep.com/2013/04/04/osaka-2019-short-film-set-to-blade-...

Would love to hear your feedback.

July 24, 2013 at 9:56AM, Edited September 4, 11:21AM

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With all due respect... why would you even say that?

July 24, 2013 at 10:18AM, Edited September 4, 11:21AM

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Brian

Haha... I guess the comment this was replying to was deleted :)

July 26, 2013 at 9:02AM, Edited September 4, 11:21AM

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Brian

I LOVE this. I worked in documentary for a number of years, specifically as cinematographer, and the films we made were all done in the typical get-in-the-middle-of-the-action style. I always hated this, as I felt we were imparting too much of our own meaning in the way we told the story. It's always been my opinion that the most powerful documentary is one that takes a step BACK from the action, rather than taking a step INTO it. I ended up tiring of the approach we were taking (partly because I often didn't agree with the meaning we were injecting into the stories), and as a result moved on and started taking on a lot more commercial work. It's been at least two years since I've worked on a documentary, but in the last few months I've been considering swinging back around to documentary again. Rodrigo's interview was very inspiring to me as I can really relate to his perspective on the genre.

Thank you for taking the time to do this interview.

July 24, 2013 at 10:33AM, Edited September 4, 11:21AM

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Brian

I haven't seen the documentary yet - only the trailer, but I can say after the interview I'm looking forward to it. Rodrigo comes across to me, as a very insightful and interesting director - I think all of us who make films appreciate hearing about the process that others go through in their journey....I personally really appreciate those who take the time to share their experiences with others. Thank you Rodrigo.

July 26, 2013 at 12:37PM, Edited September 4, 11:21AM

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Lay the chicken pieces skin side down in your baking dish.
When hiking or camping, people have a tendency to wear shorts and
low socks due to the hot weather. Cast iron cookware in the south
are prized heirlooms, handed down from generation to generation.

August 2, 2013 at 7:54AM, Edited September 4, 11:21AM

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