Violence in Mexico was one of the dominant themes of the press conference for Michel Franco’s Venice competition title “Sundown” on Sunday, with the director and stars Tim Roth, Charlotte Gainsbourg and Iazua Larios in attendance.
Set in the seemingly tranquil Mexican resort city Acapulco, Roth and Gainsbourg play members of a wealthy British family whose vacation there is cut short by a distant death and an existential crisis comes to the fore. Larios plays an Acapulco native who is key to the narrative.
“We have a huge problem in Mexico with violence every day,” said Larios.
Franco is not shy of depicting violence in his films, including in his previous film “New Order,” which won the Silver Lion and the Leoncino d’Oro Agiscuola Award at the 2020 Venice Film Festival. The violence in “Sundown” is comparatively muted and is restricted to short, sharp shocks.
“I do think Mexicans, or any person in the world, shouldn’t accept violence as a normal thing, but in Mexico we have so much of it that there’s that risk,” said Franco. “So cinema is a good way to keep analyzing and not accepting. And it’s never a glamorous violence of course — that will be silly — which we do see all the time.”
Franco also said that the film had shades of Albert Camus’ 1942 novella “The Stranger,” but it’s not something he says very often for fear of sounding pretentious.
Roth and Franco’s relationship goes back to 2012, when the former, who was serving as the Cannes Un Certain Regard jury president, was a fan of the latter’s “After Lucia,” which went on to win the strand’s top award.
Franco then directed Roth in “Chronic” (2015), which won best screenplay at Cannes.
Speaking of his experience of filming in Acapulco, Roth said that though Franco had told him about it, “that doesn’t prepare you for what you feel when you first see the place when you first step into the place, not just see it, when you step into the into that vibrant energy that we spent six weeks in.”
“It’s hard to explain how that actually feels,” Roth added. “It’s remarkable, shocking and beautiful. I’ll treasure it.”
Franco said that Roth had contributed some important elements to the story and that Gainsbourg created her own character.
“I just loved the way we shot… and of course, inventing my exciting story,” said Gainsbourg. “But it was really the fact that it was a different way of shooting, it was a different way of experiencing scenes and working with Tim was just incredible.”
“Sundown” is produced by Franco’s Teorema alongside Sweden’s CommonGround Pictures and Film i Väst and France’s Luxbox. Golden Lion winner Lorenzo Vigas, whose “La Caja” (The Box) is also playing at Venice, serves as executive producer alongside Roth.
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