Dioses is the second film from director Josué Méndez, and it examines the lives of the upper class in modern Peru. The film is centered around the family of Agustín (Edgar Saba), with grown son Diego (Sergio Gjurinovic) and daughter Andrea (Anahí de Cárdenas), and Agustín's new trophy girlfriend Elisa (Maricielo Effio). They spend their summer days in the idleness of the rich, insulated in their clean, comfortable, modern lifestyle. Running under it all, everyone in the family has their own secrets, from Diego's unhealthy interest in his older sister, to Elisa's shame of her indigenous heritage.
The film is an intriguing look at a social facet of Latin American society not often seen, although it did remind me somewhat of Gael García Bernal's directorial debut at last year's festival, Déficit (http://tifftalk.blogspot.com/2007/09/dficit.html). Dioses felt like a stronger film in terms of how it looked at the relationships between the rich and their servants and between the past and the present. The story in Dioses is actually not so different from what you might think of in North America, just the context is different. A good, strong film that doesn't beat you over the head with its message.
Side note: Méndez worked with director Stephen Frears as part of the Rolex Mentor and Protege Arts Initiative, and discussed Dioses with him:
Director Josué Méndez and actress Anahí de Cárdenas (who played Andrea in the film) did a Q&A afterwards:
- Méndez closely watched the film at this screening, but mainly for technical reasons, as it was a new print on a premium Kodak stock.
- He started working on the film during the Festival de Cannes Cinéfondation residence programme. The story hasn't changed much, what has changed is how you get there. He always knew how the film would end and the main things in the story, but the scenes develop and the characters change once you bring the actors in.
- He said the process is an organic thing where you have an idea of where you want to get to, it evolves when you start working on it, it's a matter of discipline, and then it all comes.
- It wasn't hard to justify filming the story of rich kids, as it was personally important as he when to high school with a bunch of rich friends, and he had many different contradictory feelings to everything they did.
- It was really encouraging to show how they did things as there are very few Latin American, and even fewer Peruvian, films that really show how they live; most films show how poor and miserable people are, and there is a whole different face to their society that is important to show; there are all these rich, beautiful people that can be miserable too.
- There is a subtext to the film that might not be apparent to foreign audiences about the servants, how people relate to them, the middle class family of Elisa in the film. He wanted to keep all this in the subtext as it would be unreal if he made them more explicit.
- The subtext is very important to the film, as that's where his criticism of this social group is; it's hidden because that's how they behave, they never talk about problems; it's important not just what you see, but what is actually going on.
- An audience member related the film to the book Un Mundo Para Julius (A World for Julius) by Alfredo Bryce Echenique and asked if people are evolving or not. Méndez explained how the book is one of the great pieces of Latin American literature and was written in the 80's but based in the 50's, and had a similar relationship between the characters and their servants, so his response to the question was, evidently people are not evolving in their attitudes.
- He continued about how it is a vicious circle where kids are raised by the maids, they get together with themselves and have kids which are raised by maids, and it goes on and on and never stops.
- Anahí de Cárdenas talked about being raised herself by a maid; her mother had originally fired the maid thinking she could raise her daughter by herself, but called the maid back within a week after Anahí wouldn't eat anything. As she got older, Anahí would go out with her mother shopping, or to play tennis, or have lunch, and it was the same with all her other friends.
- She said it was weird, and not something she's proud of for her or her parents, but it's the reality they live in.
- On challenges, de Cárdenas talked as to how this was her first movie (she had previously been in the series Esta sociedad), and it was a humbling experience to have the film in Toronto, and Locarno before that. It was surreal, but the best experience making the movie.
- The hardest part was that she didn't have a technique to get out of the character; she got in and stayed there a couple of months. One day her dad came to her and said he wanted his daughter back. At that point, she was like 'I think I need a shrink.' She had broken off an engagement, her life had gone to hell, and getting over it all was an amazing experience.
Q&A with spoliers:
- Was the brother the father? Méndez doesn't think so, but thinks the character probably thinks that.
- For Anahí de Cárdenas, the most difficult scene was the scene in which her brother basically assaults her, and she couldn't look actor Sergio Gjurinovic in the eye after that.