Yolanda Cruz’s short film, ‘El Reloj’, is a touching story that shows a day in the life of a Zapotec grandfather and his granddaughter; where every Sunday morning, the grandfather goes to the city of Oaxaca to visit his granddaughter for the day. Their ritual consists of attending mass and window-shopping throughout the city. On this particular Sunday, their routine is disrupted when they pass by a stand selling watches.
LPB talked to Cruz about her beautifully shot film. A filmmaker from Oaxaca, Mexico – Yolanda’s work has screened at festivals worldwide. She is a 2011 Sundance Screenwriting and Directing Lab Fellow with her first feature script La Raya, to be produced by Canana Films in 2014. El Reloj, Yolanda’s second fiction short film, launched by Petate Productions and Latino Public Broadcasting, premiered at the Morelia International Film Festival in 2013. Currently, Cruz is developing “Migrant Heroes”, an online series of mini-documentaries about migrant heroes in the U.S., set to go live in 2015. Cruz holds an MFA from the UCLA School of Theater, Film and Television. CLICK HERE to view and vote for ‘El Reloj’. Don’t forget to share the film with your friends! What inspired you tell the story?
My 85-year-old grandfather, Leonardo Baltazar, was the inspiration for this story. He lives in a small indigenous village in Oaxaca, Mexico. When I was a child, I lived in Oaxaca City. In order to visit me from the village, he used to walk several hours by foot and then take a bus. I was always happy to see him because he would bring fresh corn tortillas and other treats from his farm. However, I always had mixed feelings about his visits because I could never leave him alone in the city, he is not fluent in Spanish. Like the girl in the film, I would accompany him while he went window shopping in the electronic stores.
‘El Reloj’ premiered last week on the PBS Online Film Festival. Tell us about the journey of the film.
‘El Reloj’ premiered at the Morelia international Film Festival. Then it screened at the San Diego Latino Film Festival and the Smithsonian Institute in Washington, D.C. The PBS Online Film Festival is a great opportunity to share the film with a broad and diverse group of viewers of Latin American heritage and with all people who appreciate a good story. When the online film festival started, we began a social-media campaign to attract and engage viewers who share an interest in film and language. We’ve noticed that viewers respond really well to the fact that this story is in Zapotec, a native language from Oaxaca.
Was it always your intention to produce the film as a short?
Yes, when I started working on the story I planned for it to be under 10 minutes. Having made a number of feature-length films, I now realize that producing something less than 10 minutes long is no less rewarding and is definitely more manageable.
I like the scene in the church when the grandfather tries to light a candle, which usually isn’t allowed in historic churches in Mexico. My grandpa still does this to me every opportunity he gets.
The Latino community has a large indigenous population; however they are often underrepresented or misrepresented in media. Why do you think this is the case?
I strongly believe that it is essential for each indigenous community to attempt to preserve and explore its cultural nuances. I believe everyone benefits from a discussion, an exploration, of the diversity of human beliefs and mannerisms.
How does ‘El Reloj’ speak to the challenging generational rift commonly evident between a grandfather and his granddaughter?
‘El Reloj’ is a unique story inspired by my relationship with my grandfather. However, it also suggests that technology and rituals can be elements that older and younger generations have in common.
‘El Reloj’ was filmed in the city of Oaxaca, a city renown for it’s beautiful architecture, food and art. But not often do you see the linguistic diversity of the state represented, despite the fact that you can hear different languages on the street everyday. I hope that viewers can see and begin to understand a contemporary Oaxaca.
What advice do you have for any aspiring filmmakers who are trying to produce a narrative short?
Well, shorts take a lot of time and money, but don’t give up. Create a community, help your friends make their movies, and hopefully they will help you make yours in return. Filmmaking is a community effort.
Why is public media the best place for you film?
It is my mission to create projects that explore and showcase wonderful stories that deserve more attention, and that I think people want to see. Public media accesses a large audience and is known for its incisive reflections on the human experience. I believe that my work appeals to people already drawn to public media.
Can you tell us about any future projects you’re working on?
I’m currently finishing a short documentary called Migrant Heroes, and it’s also intended for the web. I’m in pre-production of my first narrative feature, and that will be shot in Oaxaca, Mexico, and produced by Canana Films, a company founded by Gael Garcia Bernal, Diego Luna and Pablo Cruz.