Whilst the world came to a standstill, Juan Manuel Pinzón (co-director of MUZALUCI’s psychedelic fashion thriller) set out on the creative challenge of producing a one minute short within a strict 48 hour time limit. Informed by ruminations on sexuality, the societal norms we adhere to and powerful themes from the unique writing of magic realist author Gabriel Garcia Marquez, Mist (Bruma) sees a couple’s wedding day shattered by a vengeance born of jealousy and loss. We caught up with Pinzón to discuss traversing lockdown restrictions, queer representation on screen and finding the right narrative density for this jarringly powerful micro short.
During the lockdown brought about by the pandemic I had the opportunity to take part in a series of workshops led by the AMC (Association of Mexican Cinematographers) titled “How to make a movie from beginning to end from the Director’s / Cinematographer’s / Production Designer’s point of view”. For each workshop they designed a 48 hour competition where we were challenged to make a one minute short film under precise and particular guidelines. Mist (Bruma in Spanish) was my final product. To shape the challenge we were given a paragraph extracted from La Mujer que llegaba a las seis which is a short story written by Gabriel Garcia Marquez. In the story, two lovers, a man and a woman, pontificated on how he could be capable of killing a person if she was to run away with another man. The assignment was to use the essence of this story in our films.
Normally, these kinds of stories are told through heterosexual characters. I wanted to change the elements of the equation.
I had never thought about writing a one minute script. Analyzing the text I realized the most important topics were possession, jealousy, toxic obsession and the psychological power of one person over another. Normally, these kinds of stories are told through heterosexual characters. I wanted to change the elements of the equation. As a member of the LGBTQ+ community I’m interested in tales where the queer characters do not suffer because of their sexuality, where the rules that apply are the same for everyone, where their values as individuals are conditioned by themselves and not their sexual preference.
Over the past year, I had reflected a lot about the ironic burden that living itself brings: how the most revealing and exciting events of a lifetime can turn, from one second to the next, into pure and deep despair. Almost as if it were a godly joke in bad taste. Finally, it seemed like a great opportunity to explore the representation of nudity in queer male bodies, without taboos. I wanted all these elements to be part of the story.
Having established the base plot and the characters, I contacted the actors and the crew who I wanted to work with. I believe it is essential to bond as a family with your team. I always try to work with friends who I deeply admire and from whom I learn with every creative exchange we have. I owe my entire life to that group of crazy people who have accompanied me in this and other projects. As a director I really appreciate being surrounded by so much talent. At the end of the day, you are as good as your team is. Due to the brevity of the project I played my own producer, art director and production designer.
The first person I called upon was Juan Cruz Márquez de la Serna, a great actor and a friend and, My idea was to use him as stuntman, to ride along the avenues of Buenos Aires on a motorcycle and after he agreed I reached out to Guido Pietranera and Leandro Vázquez and we were able to start the pre-production. Guido is an actor as well as a producer who I thoroughly enjoy working with as he demands a lot of me to create depth to his characters in order to inhabit his new skin. This was his first ever sex scene which was a momentous challenge but my intuition told me working with Leandro, who as well as being a gaffer is a director for porn films, would provide Guido with the guidance he needed, and I was not wrong. Their personalities had to be marked by contrast: we enhanced Guido’s vulnerability and fragility with Leandro’s dominant, protective and leading energy. Throughout the shoot I asked them not to separate, to get to know each other, to feel like they were on a constant first date and I think the chemistry and passion really shine on screen.
The third character, separated from all this romantic idyll, was played by Pedro Vinué. He started to perform in theater as a child and working with him is fascinating because he allows himself to be molded like play dough. His character was someone loaded with hatred, resentment, and toxic thoughts. Whilst the characters played by Leandro and Guido were full of love, Pedro embodied death and destruction. The only way to get his ex-partner back was through fear, disfiguring him inside out. The utopia of recovering something that is irretrievable. On set, he isolated himself, his energy was very charged, and he did not speak or eat.
My right hand was Isabella Gómez Tendler and with her we adjusted the color and texture palette, we thought of a wardrobe and makeup that had a dramatic progression. For the world of Guido and Leandro, both in wardrobe and in inhabited spaces, we always wanted to keep in mind the patterns, the flowers, the colorful motives, the lace, the shine. Only at the end, when he is devastated, would we take away all colors, so that the blood on his face could be the most saturated element of the painting.
We wanted to decorate the set in its whole, even the corners the camera doesn’t reach to help the actors embody the space.
On the other hand, Pedro’s character was the only one who could use the color black. Even at the end when they enter the room with the wheelchair, Pedro wears a patterned shirt that seems to belong to Guido’s world, but it is black and white. A detail which seemed important to us to show that the reappearance in the life of his former partner was forced and false. Isa, our costume and makeup designer, is 23 years old and surpasses us in talent and attention. She is the perfect example of how you have to have a 360 view of everything that happens on set. The fabrics she uses are all designed to enable optimal sound recording, and before putting a drop of makeup on the skin she makes sure she knows what type of lighting will be used. Above all, she becomes the actor’s psychologist, something that seems fundamental to me.
As to the main location, I used my own home in Buenos Aires. Through friends and acquaintances, I was able to get hold of objects needed to transform the set and give life to the room. Magdalena Peralta, one of my best friends and great allies in art direction, helped me with the setting. I wanted to wallpaper my room to get rid of the white, but being Friday night it was impossible to make it happen. So It occurred to her that we could buy a roll of wooden paper designed to wrap food in restaurants and put bitumen on it to provide texture. That one detail changed everything. I admire her ability to use exactly what has at hand and evolve it. We wanted to decorate the set in its whole, even the corners the camera doesn’t reach to help the actors embody the space.
For the cinematography, we paired with Camila Scarzello, one of my great mentors and supporters. We made use of whatever homemade resources we had to hand, using limitations as a creative starting point and not as an obstacle. We made lanterns with cardboard boxes, garden lamps, aluminum, dimmers and photo filters. Despite her tender age of 24, she teaches cinematography at the Universidad del Cine de Buenos Aires and Universidad Nacional La Plata. She knows a lot about light. Sometimes as a director when you are still starting out you have a little fear of cinematography and these types of challenges are made so much easier by someone like Camila who is so willing to transmit her knowledge and merge aesthetic criteria to obtain potentially better results.
We started shooting by sunset on Saturday. Filming was an adrenaline overdose as it was still a forbidden activity. The city of Buenos Aires is still in quarantine, and at the time of the project, things were even stricter than they are now. Without a special legal work permit you were not allowed to be outside. In the car from which we were filming, there were three of us: Camila, Magdalena and myself. We decided the shooting had to be done in two hours max and I started as the cameraman while Camila drove. We had never counted on the fact that when people see a motorbike with a wedding dress fluttering behind they get excited, celebrate and beep their horns! In other words, we were attracting much more attention than we wanted or even imagined. It was probably the most interesting scene for people out there after so many months of quarantine. We eluded policemen using a GPS app but passed by some who, by some sort of miracle, did not notice us.
We finished filming the rest on the Sunday and after a late finish, we started editing. It was only then that I realized how much you can say in a one minute script. My main concern was that the short film could be taken as an advertising clip. It was too much information to be conveyed in just one minute. I needed to find a balance between snapshots and the elapse of time. I used the film 21 Gramms by Alejandro González Iñárritu, where the order of events is unclear and everything is presented so that the viewer can solve the puzzle as the narration advances coming and going through time. Andres Medina, one of my head editors helped during the first half of the day via Zoom. As a director, I find it difficult to distance myself from the material and that is why I believe it is key to bring in someone that has no attachment to the shots.
Once we had the final edit, we decided to title the short film Bruma (Mist). Not only because on that particular day Buenos Aires was hidden under mist, but also as a metaphoric way to describe the obscurity or lack of clarity which muddled the killer’s mind and surrounded the murder.
It was too much information to be conveyed in just one minute. I needed to find a balance between snapshots and the elapse of time.
Daniel Carrizo was responsible for the color grading, a director of photography with whom I have most worked since I started filming and to whom I can totally trust the image control. He is one of my major aesthetic inspirations. When I have to light up any scene, I always ask myself “what would Dani do right now?” I told him that we wanted a contrasted image, textured without fear of the chiaroscuro or the deep black, but without losing information. We wanted all the elements to be perceived as under the mist, they never completely disappear.
In parallel, Matías Carou, a musician, started designing the base as the first cuts were ready with textures which helped to build the atmosphere of the story. He has the best of tastes and having worked together on various occasions we understand what the other wants. It still surprises me how in less than an hour Matías can have a piece which meets the needs of the narrative.
Then came the last step of the process: the sound design, under the responsibility of the magician Gonzalo Komel. And I say magician because to me, this is the stage where the magic finally consolidates. Sound is 60% of the image, it sets the rhythm, the atmosphere, and the emotions. It allows the viewer to see things that might not be seen without it. I like taking the time to put sound to image. Sound provides the third dimension required to the bi-dimension of a shot. I still cannot understand how in 5 hours Gonzalo managed to do everything he did. We worked together with the objective of providing sound to every shot independently, I did not want one piece of music for the whole film. We wanted to produce a sound crash by contrast every time there was a change of scene. In the second half, when the characters return to the apartment, the sound of silence is strong, without sudden changes that allowed us to keep the mystery and tension generated in the first half.
In the end, we managed to submit our film in time and the short received the Grand Jury Prize at the closing day of the workshop.