The 30th annual San Diego Latino Film Festival closes this Sunday, but there are still many films to watch and a final night of partying ahead.
Film festivals are an invitation to adventure and get out of your comfort zone to watch movies you won’t find anywhere else. One of the things I love about the San Diego Latino Film Festival is that in addition to showing films that the public loves, it also makes room for films that expand the creative possibilities. This showcase is called Un Mundo Extraño, which literally translates as “strange world”.
Moises Esparza, director of the festival’s exhibitions, is delighted to show films made since the peak of the pandemic that are fueled by ambitious themes. Filmmakers are no longer stuck in their homes, but their films are colored by quarantine.
“I think a common theme that I’ve seen this year is the home-cosy-themed game,” Esparza said. “We were all locked in our house. We all thought about domestic roles, domestic sphere. So a lot of the movies this year I think are playing with what it means post-COVID, which I think is pretty exciting. behold”.
This reimagined theme of homeliness is taken up in Weser: The Bone Woman. Valeria is a young pregnant woman who has a loving husband and a good life. But that’s just what it looks like on the surface.
“We’ve created a character that seems to have everything it takes to build a wonderful family life,” said director Michele Garza Cervera. “And it was designed on purpose. We wanted the problem and essence and horror to be born out of her inner emotional conflict. So we also didn’t want it to be focused on the process of what happens to the female body.” Literally, throughout pregnancy. We have seen this many times. It was more about the symbolic thing of something that breaks you and it literally makes you feel like your bones are breaking. We really wanted this to be an image of how you feel. inside to go through the process of sacrifice, which can be a household or a family.”
For actress Natalia Solian, the horror comes from the conflict Valeria experiences as she tries to reconcile what society wants from her with who she imagines herself to be.
“The horror for me was this specific sense of guilt, which in Latin culture we always feel strongly,” Solian said. “We have the education not to speak, to be silent. We cannot (resist) what is not good for society.”
In Servera’s case, she grew up with the idea of rebellious women in her family as “evil” because they didn’t fit the traditional role of submissive housewife.
“When I was growing up as a little girl, I had a fear of becoming one of these women because they would laugh at them or just be in these boxes, canceled boxes,” Servera said.
But then Cervera discovered punk and began to question everything. She now uses her art, and the horror genre in particular, to challenge stereotypes and question cultural expectations in a symbolic way.
“I really want to be rooted in reality, but then I feel that horror allows me, through one image, through one sound, to say something very complex, which could take you 10 essay pages,” Servera said. “I feel like horror is really that generous. In one sound, you think, this is how it feels when your family asks you about something very uncomfortable, or social expectations are terrible, and how do you express such a difficult thing? And I feel like horror really allows you to do that in a very fun and entertaining way.”
As a young Mexican in a society heavily influenced by the Catholic Church, Valeria convinced herself that happiness lies in what society defines as a traditional, heteronormative relationship with a husband and child. But this dream turns into a nightmare as Valeria feels her personality is splitting. This feeling is also reflected in the images of the film, where Valeria is reflected and fragmented in mirrors, windows and water.
The film is based on the legend of an old woman who digs up bones in the desert and builds a skeleton very slowly.
“And then, when she’s all set, she creates a fire ritual that gives life to that creature and frees it,” Servera explained. “The legend is far from what the film is, but what I really wanted to keep is its core, which is about how to go through a difficult process, to find pieces deep inside ourselves that sometimes we don’t want to look at. … And I feel that once we do that, it will be painful, but then you will be free in many other ways. So I thought it was a great story to build a horror movie on.”
This legend also motivates the eerie sights and sounds that drive the film. Valeria imagines and feels her bones crack and break, and images of broken bodies haunt her. All of this lends the film a unique and spectacularly disturbing style that offers us a glimpse into how society can try to force people to play limiting roles.
“Wesera: The Bone Woman” will be screened on Sunday, the closing day of the festival, and Cervera and three actresses will be there to introduce the film and answer questions from the audience.
“I enjoy programming a lot of amazing films on the last day,” Esparza said. “I want people to feel like they left the festival watching some amazing content.”