The directorial debut of Gael García Bernal, Déficit is centered around a party being held at the country home of Bernal's character Cristobal. Cristobal is outwardly happy, but struggles with the weight of parental expectations and relationships, and now has to deal with his sister (Camila Sodi) and her friends, who have showed up at the house on the same day. When Cristobal's friends arrive, they have in tow Dolores (Luz Cipriota), an Argentinian who captivates Cristobal, despite the fact that his girlfriend Mafer is on her way to the house. Cristobal also has a rival for Dolores' attention in the form of the gardener Adán, who grew up with Cristobal. As the party runs into the night, fuelled by alcohol and more, Cristobal will eventually reach a breaking point.
This was a good freshman directing effort, but wonder if it might have been a bit more effective if Bernal wasn't also in the starring role. Still, it probably worked better than many other self-directing efforts.
The story could have been a bit stronger. Perhaps because of the short length, there wasn't much opportunity to develop more of the characters, or to develop the main characters a bit more deeply. I did like Luz Cipriota; she came across as very natural and relaxed. The film did do a good job with its undercurrents of class and racial divisions (very Upstairs, Downstairs).
Director/star Gael García Bernal, screenwriter Kyzza Terrazas, and actors Camila Sodi, Luz Cipriota, and Tenoch Huerta Mejía were in attendance for a Q&A:
- It took 5-and-a-half weeks to shoot the film.
- Déficit was originally just a working title that Terrazas came up with, but as they went they found meanings for the title. Among other things, it is a word his generation has grown up with (like deficit, crisis, devaluation, democracy, impunity).
- And every character in the film lacks something; they are all orphans in a way. They want to find closeness in some way - it's a new beginning for everyone. They all lack a sense of being comfortable with the place they live in. They don't know their place in the world yet. As well, deficit is a word the rest of the world understands.
- There is an Ontario license plate on Tenoch Huerta Mejía's truck in the film because Canada has an immigrant working program which is different than what the US has.
- The town in the film is south of Mexico City. There is a wall of mountains surrounding the town, so whatever you do (clap or fart) there's a lot of resonance.
- The sound of fireworks going off in the background just happened, they are not part of the film. It's reality, and sometimes reality draws beautiful metaphors.
- On Bernal's character's relationships with women in the film, Terrazas talked about an age at which women are just something guys play around with. He didn't feel in the film like it was a macho or gender thing. This character thinks that on one level he controls the world and everything around him, not just women, but the servants, the country, the economy.
- Bernal said that the script offered a strong base to play around with. Since the events in the film occur over one day, a lot of things happen simultaneously, and you get a lot of things happening in the background you have to invent a story around.
- One of the actresses (I think Camila Sodi) said that the film was pretty much based on the script (i.e. not widely improvised); Bernal as a director gave them a lot of freedom, so they did improvise a bit around what was written, which might have helped with the natural feel.
- Bernal talked about the huge challenges working on the film, finding himself working against himself. You have to act like you know what you're doing; you know what you want to reach but not how, but you have to act like you do.
- It was quite frustrating sometimes because he couldn't get upset or anxious because he had to go act himself. He had to be chilled out. It's the month he's slept the least.
- Mejía said that when an actor who is a director is directing another actor, there's a special relationship built because they understand each other and it makes the actor feel more comfortable because he knows the director understands what he's going through. He guides you but gives you room to explore.
- On if more directing is in his future, Bernal said that practically, directing will take time away from plays and films but he thinks it is the start of a sweet revenge.
- They did the movie in a simple and organic way; in economic terms, it would be like organic produce. They did it from the beginning to the end with their resources and a lot of passion and effort and the result is what they wanted, and they learned a lot. They want to challenge themselves with this learning. As some one once said, you first film only helps your second. But he doesn't want a career as a director, he still wants to be an actor.
- The story was a bit accidental. At the beginning, they wanted to make a TV series that would serve as a platform to make stories set in different states in Mexico with cinematic rigor. But the only way to do Déficit was to convert it into a film. There were practical reasons, but the ball was already rolling. They found the story to tell, and there comes a point where you know where to go on whatever path they encountered.
- The film was shot on video.