How to Subversively Film a Politically Subversive Film
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Barry Jenkins once said, "Art is inherently political. Even trying to make a film that has nothing to do with politics is, in and of itself, a political act." Unfortunately for filmmakers, not everyone these days will jump at the chance to see a movie that advertises its own inherently political nature.
So how do you subvert an audience's expectations with a film like The Wall of Mexico? The title itself implies one of the most controversial issues facing the United States of America today. Directors Zachary Cotler and Magdalena Zyzak would say that the first step lies in staying ahead of the audience. How do you stay ahead of an audience expecting a social issues movie? Don't write a movie explicitly about social issues.
That's exactly what the directing partners did with their SXSW standout. The film is heavy on magical realism and doesn't beat the audience over the head with any one single message. As Colter and Zyzak put it, ambiguity is a part of their artistic creed. And it's one that benefits the social issues narrative genre greatly.
In what is a subversive plot in and of itself, The Wall of Mexico tells the story of a wealthy Mexican family who decides to build a wall around their ranch to stop American townspeople from stealing their well water. I sat down with the cast and directors to discuss the art and importance of subtlety and messing with audience expectations.
For more, see our ongoing list of coverage of the 2019 SXSW Film Festival.
No Film School's podcast and editorial coverage of the 2019 SXSW Film Festival is sponsored by Blackmagic Design.