Opinion: As a young filmmaker, creating a feature film to honor my Yucatec culture was a dream

Vargas Madrigal is a filmmaker who lives in Los Angeles.

“In the Mayab [the original name of the Yucatan peninsula], when a girl is born, the birds cry with melancholy” is a quote from the famous author Conchi León “Del Manantial del Corazón”, a play from Yucatan which miraculously became the basis of a project to which I dedicated five years of my life. As a young filmmaker, it’s a dream experience that this is my first feature film.

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Mérida, Yucatán is opposite Tijuana, Baja California, where I was born and raised. When I was 19, I emigrated to San Diego, and after graduating with a degree in Visual and Media Arts from UCSD in 2015, I moved with a group of friends to Los Angeles, where we would all end up finding jobs in the media industry. .

It was during these days that I found myself visiting my mother, Gisela Madrigal, a film and theater actress who at the time was reading an upcoming choral adaptation of “Del Manantial Del Corazón”, which will be performed at the CECUT (Centro Cultural Tijuana). By the way, I heard my mother reading with a funny accent and she briefly mentioned to me the material she was preparing, and at that moment, a multitude of fascinating images crossed my mind. My first thought was “someone important needs to make this into a movie, it’s so visually and dramatically arresting.” All of this probably happened in the space of 15 minutes.

I am by no means a theater buff and had never visited the state of Yucatán, but I immediately imagined this as a movie.

I thought about the idea for a few days and towards the end of 2016 I decided to look up Conchi on Facebook and sent a friend request. After being accepted, I sent him a long and detailed message explaining my ideas and offering to start developing the project myself as an independent feature. After a few phone calls, she gave me the green light, an extremely generous project to hand over to a 26-year-old filmmaker who at the time had only a few deeply underground shorts.

After completing a draft of the script in early 2017, I visited and met Conchi for the first time in Mérida, Yucatán, his hometown and what would become our production home base. I came back in 2018, and with the help of associate producers Adriana Santos and Nayeli Del Toro, both from my hometown of Tijuana, we created a two-minute proof-of-concept teaser.

After long months of planning, development and many missed lunches and dinners in order to save enough production money, we ventured into March 2019 and accelerated the film into an intense schedule that included casting, identification and establishment of a team. together.

We found immense local support thanks to Conchi León, as well as our local co-producers Jorge Ivan Rubio and Mario Suarez, who connected us with resources and local authorities who kindly assisted us in the production.

“Del Manantial del Corazón” tells the stories of three mixed-race women from Yucatán, all of whom are struggling around their motherhood.

The film differs from the play in the way its stories are presented. While the play has three actresses playing a variety of characters as they narrate sections of the story, the film operates in a type of anthology format. Transitioning between different characters, places and periods of Yucatán, it tells the stories of Betty, Eduvrigidas and Socorro.

The intention was to portray the uniqueness of Yucatan cultures and how they intertwine and exist together. It shows that these women overcome different situations, often on their own. It all happens against the backdrop of “El Mayab”, the Yucatán region, which functions almost as a character in its own right in the film.

Working on this project was a very emotional experience for me and most others involved, the nature of the material being very powerful; I remember shedding tears while writing the script, shooting certain scenes and editing the film.

At the upcoming 29th San Diego Latin Film Festival, the film will see its American and public premiere, and we couldn’t be more excited and grateful for the opportunity to share our film. Many of the artists involved hail from the San Diego/Tijuana area, including executive producer Edwin Cruz, cinematographer Jo Kamimura, art director Frida Reyes, and composer Pedro Vargas Madrigal.

“Del Manantial del Corazon”

Airing: 9 p.m. Friday, at AMC Mission Valley, screen six

Available online: Sunday at sdlatinofilm.com

This essay is in the print edition of The San Diego Union-Tribune on March 16, 2022, with the title, My first feature film is a dream come true

James C. Tibbs