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a talk with Astrid Rondero

Two women lie on a bed, recognizing each other. One of them, an architect who stars in a return to her hometown, recognizes in the other not only the body that has awakened her desire but also a presence that triggers encounters with her own past. The connection of both characters, built on the basis of vulnerability and sisterhood, springs up in a current situation that continues to be adverse and deadly for women, since it truncates their possibilities in a daily, systematic way and, as shown The darkest days of us, sometimes almost effortlessly.

It’s only been a couple of months since Mexican filmmakers Fernanda valadez and Astrid rondero They presented the film Sin particulars in the Morelia International Film Festival. The story of a mother who sets out on a journey to search for her missing son arrived in Mexico with more than a dozen international awards under her arm, only to reap even more: she won the Audience Award, the Ojito for Best Actress for Mercedes Hernández y el Ojo for Best Mexican Feature Film in the contest. A few days ago it won the award for Best Foreign Film in the Gotham awards. Produced by In Aguas Cine, company of which Astrid and Fernanda are founders, Sin particulars also arose as a kind of vision, of a possible future: that of the alliance of filmmakers who exchange roles in creative processes because they create and dream together.

However, Sin particulars was not the first film born from the eyes of En Aguas Cine. The darkest days of us, Rondero’s debut feature –produced by Fernanda–, successfully passed through the festival circuit between 2017 and 2018, after a development that attracted multiple supporters. “Their entire development process was very sheltered,” Astrid tells us. “In fact, it had the support of the United States that makes me very proud because it was from the Hollywood Filmmakers Association of all women and with that money I was able to finish post-production. Like the film had many allies along its path, from post-production financing.

Mexican filmmaker Astrid Rondero, on the set of The Darkest Days of Us.

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This week, the film finally reaches Mexican commercial theaters that have an epidemiological traffic light that allows it. Three years after its first festival screenings, when the Me Too movements had not yet exploded and even the word feminism was perceived with suspicion, the conversations that today frame the film have been completely transformed. “It has been radical, hasn’t it?”, The director talks. “I remember the comment of someone respected here in Mexico, who at the beginning said that it was a ‘hate men’ movie. At the time, when I heard it, it was strong, because it was not the intention. But hey, on the other hand, there are a couple of things to hate about patriarchy, right? Rather, the intention was to speak of the fact that the reality in which the woman is inserted is still very adverse.

The violence is in the details. And those details are what do not allow women to live their full potential as human beings.

The film is set in Tijuana, a city that Astrid promised to return to one day to shoot, after having assisted in the filming of Norteado, of Rigoberto Pérezcano, years ago. While the character of Silvia (Florence Rios) faces her ex-husband in a legal battle for her daughter and must seek sustenance in the nightlife of the border city, Ana (Sophie Alexander-Katz) deals with the onslaught of memory, while trying to stay afloat in coexistence with the construction workers that he coordinates.

“She doesn’t know how to get close to others. That is something that, for example, I lived a lot, not as a director but as an assistant director ”, Astrid tells us. « I had the obligation to control the set and make certain decisions towards subordinates, although I did not have the top position. » Instead of receiving other comments, the ‘she’s neurotic’ came. There are no nicknames of that type for men, in these types of positions. We are generally ‘rude’, ‘hysterical’. That permeates the film with a character who reaches a command post ”.

The darkest days of us take place in Tijuana, Baja California.

The days of us

Astrid Rondero and Fernanda Valadez met during their years as film students. Astrid was about to finish her thesis at the University Center for Cinematographic Studies, Fernanda in her second year of Cinematographic Training Center. Both began to collaborate: Fernanda finished producing Astrid’s thesis; Astrid co-wrote and produced Fernanda’s short films. « It is very clear to us that the power of our work is to do it together, » says the director.

Shortly after they founded the production company, with which they also plan to accompany and produce projects for new directors. “More than an obligation with our gender, we feel an affinity,” explains Astrid, for whom the cultural impact generated by networks of women working together is also evident.

“That was a discussion that had with what happened with the trusts of cinema [la desaparición de FOPROCINE Y FIDECINE en 2020]. Public funds have allowed entire groups of women to film, ”says the director.

Because, if not, what happens when we leave school, in my time at least, and no matter how talented you are, is that it is easier for a colleague to start being offered a job as a director than for women. So there was this way out, we can claim public funds. Of my generation we filmed women before. And that’s part of us taking each other seriously. « 

The female talent behind The Darkest Days of Us.

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Sorority also reaches the screen on this occasion, through the ties with different layers that germinate between the character of Florence Rios and that of Sophie Alexander-Katz, who was actually nominated for the 2019 Ariel Award for her work on this film. «I wrote the script for an actress, who had an energy that attracted me a lot to speak about women in today’s world. But by chance of fate he could no longer. And then with Sophie it was an almost immediate process. I already knew her from another short project, « says Astrid. “Sophie has something very special, because physically she seems very fragile, although she is not, but she has a power… That quality gave something very interesting to the character. He gave it a 180 degree change. Not that she was a replacement, actually, this role was for her.

The unexplained desire

The Darkest Days of Us offers a portrait of the relationship between two women rarely seen in Mexican cinema. A spontaneous homoerotic desire, immersed in the complexity of life, that does not need to be explained to the audience. As part of the LGBTQ + community, Astrid sees an evolution in narratives and in the way cinema has been related to the topic.

« The truth is I look like a broken record, but I always talk about how Julián Hernández opened the scene, at least for us, » recalls the director. «All the films that are about the discovery of homosexuality or homoerotic desire have a coming of age charge. Like you wake up to a new world and then there is the typical scene where you have to go to a place where there are a lot of gays and there are all the rites of passage of maturation. But then what has been happening, and that excites me a lot, is that we started to leave the coming of ages. We no longer need to tell those stories because we already tell them. I also told it, with my thesis. Sure, they can continue to be counted, but it is no longer the only thing we need to count.

The coming of age has given way, according to the director, to more complex films, with the ability to cover more topics than just those that have to do with the rejection or affectations by the ‘coming out’ of the characters. “Those more complex and human discussions that are less focused on some type of genre are what are giving Mexican cinema a broader conversation that it did not have. It has been a conquest of the creators of the LGBTQ + community ».

Currently, Astrid and Fernanda are preparing an upcoming film that they plan to shoot in 2021 titled Sujo, which already has a script, with a Spanish co-producer and a Spanish actress of international stature. «Fer and I are very excited because it is the story of a boy who is an orphan of the drug trafficker who totally changes his destiny. We are going to see him grow from the moment he is alone, until he arrives in Mexico City. Of all things, his dream is to enter UNAM ».

These are the Mexican cinemas where you can see The Darkest Days of Us.

Jessica Oliva Journalist, editor at Cine PREMIERE and frustrated dancer in her spare time. Fond of cinema, literature, tango, useless data and the opportunity to wake up doing whatever it takes.