Your new movie Dis -
in a few words, what is it about?
Itís an arthouse horror film based on the
mandrake/mandragora legend, aka, the devilís root, aka, the insanity
centered on the story of Ariel (Bill Oberst jr [Bill
Oberst jr interview - click here]), an ex-soldier with a
dark past who, after disturbing encounters with his ex-lover Sophia (Lori
Jo Hendrix) and his pimp brother (Peter Gonzales Falcon), vanishes into
the forest where he encounters a demonic figure (Manuel Dominguez) who has
a diabolic-scientific enthusiasm for mandrake gardens.
What were your sources
of inspiration when writing Dis?
literature (everything from The Bible to Harry Potter), Danteís
(specifically the circle of the suicides, where disembodied humans have
been turned into plants) and other literary sources like weird fiction,
gothic literature and noir.
isn't necessarily following a stringent narrative but is very atmosphere-
and associtation-heavy - so what made you choose to tell your story that
way, and how much of an effort was it to not lose your storyline in the
association-heavy - albeit not free association.
I chose to tell the story this way because I believe atmosphere is
the essence of terror. I
wasnít afraid of losing the story line, so there never was a conscious
effort to avoid that. On
the one hand, the film is a dark thought experiment:
I wanted to take a simple mythological idea and extend it to its
maximum, radical consequences.
On the other hand, the film is something like a character-based
expressionist tragedy: a powerful but fragile stranger in a strange land
as he is being unraveled, and I think Bill Oberst jr superbly captured
Do talk about your movie's approach to
horror for a bit, and is this a genre especially dear to you?
dear. Iíve been
a student of horror all my life.
Iím also a student of underground cinema, experimental cinema,
exploitation, arthouse, surrealism and transgressive cinema.
So there are obvious influences from all these sub-genres.
is mostly an outdoors film - so what can you tell us about your rather
impressive locations, how did you find them, and what was it like filming
I stumbled upon the
locations by accident. I
was writing an MA dissertation in philosophy and I would take these long,
deep hikes into the cold Perote Sierra and the surrounding area in the
beautiful, exotic state of Veracruz, Mexico.
I heard rumors of a haunted building and I hiked there.
The building, I later learned, had been a TB sanatarium, a
psychiatric hospital, and a military academy before it was abandoned for
forty or so years. So
it has some history! Some
of the locals feel uneasy about it and horror stories abound but what
struck me the most was the natural evil feel it had - very Tarkovskian -
and I knew right away we had to shoot there.
is pretty much carried by its lead Bill Oberst jr [Bill
Oberst jr interview - click here], who's in pretty much most of
the shots of the movie - so how did you get him to be in your film, what
was it like working with him, and did you write your screenplay with him
in mind from the get-go?
I did not
write the script with Bill in mind but I did picture Ariel as a gaunt,
tragic figure with a penetrating stare and a mystic aura and Bill was a
name that kept popping up in LA when I was showing the
script around. Of
course, I was familiar with Billís work from Take This Lollipop and
Criminal Minds but I did not know he was in such high demand and I did
everything in my power to work with him.
From his work and from our meetings, I realized Bill is an actor
with foundation, an actor who is not afraid to face the abyss, an actor
who will even dive into it if need be.
And he showed this.
But Bill also gave the film invaluable fragile human elements -
itís one thing to show a body ripped apart on screen, itís quite
another to show a soul ripped apart.
Working with him was fantastic.
I was in constant awe of his self-discipline, his courage and what
he demands of himself.
What can you tell us about the
rest of your cast, and why exactly these people?
Peter Gonzales Falcon is a
close friend. He
starred in Felliniís Roma and was my first choice to play Arielís
Iím a fan of Lori Jo
Hendrixís work from the 90s.
When I learned she was living in Mexico City, I did all I could to
get in touch.
Anne Voitsekhova came
highly recommended for her ability as a dancer: she has a background in
classical ballet from the Ukraine and was one of the top-rated exotic pole
dancers in Mexico City at the time of the shoot.
I had seen Manuel
Dominguezís theater work and had been wanting to work with him for some
time. I knew he
was an actor who could make something out of nothing - without showing an
inch of skin or uttering a single word.
I knew he was perfect to play The Figure.
about the shoot as such, and the on-set atmosphere!
was a tight shoot - 13 days - with three months of pre-production.
The shoot went well and under budget but it was intense.
For the lake and cabin scenes, we had to take long expeditions on
burros and camp in the woods.
It was October, it rained most of the time and even the local
guides said the temperature was abnormally low.
It was kind of tough but ultimately I think the harshness added
realism to the film.
$64-question of course, where can Dis
It just started the
festival circuit last month.
It premiered at the TOHorror Film Festival in Turin, Italy where it
won the Anna Mondelli Award.
It also won three awards at the Dark Veins Horror Fest: Best Actor
(Bill Oberst jr), Best Evil Character (Manuel Dominguez) and Best Extreme
Film. It will
play next in Argentina: Cine con Riesgo.
Then again in Italy at the Optical Theater Festival.
Anything you can tell us about audience and
critical reception of Dis
So far, audience and critical
reception have been great, but of course, we just kicked off.
Any future projects you'd like to share?
working on a horror noir feature currently in development.
got you into making movies in the first place, and did you receive any
formal training on the subject?
I did not go to film school but I had two great mentors: Mexican
directors Mario Hernandez Sepulveda and Ricardo Benet.
What can you tell us
about your filmwork prior to Dis?
have a 20-min short film, Portrait, which was distributed by The Open
would you describe yourself as a director?
Your favourite movies?
a Lonely Place, Night of the
Hunter, Los Olvidados.
Feeling lucky ?
any of my partnershops yourself
for more, better results ?
The links below
will take you
movie's website, Facebook, whatever else?
you're dying to mention and I have merely forgotten to ask?
to thank you for this interview and for supporting indie films.
for the interview!
No, thank you,