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An Interview with Sol Moreno, Director of Diablo Rojo PTY

by Mike Haberfelner

June 2020

Films directed by Sol Moreno on (re)Search my Trash

 

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Your new movie Diablo Rojo PTY - in a few words, what is it about?

 

Diablo Rojo PTY is the story of Miguel Moreno, a driver of the typical Diablo Rojo, the metropolitan public transport, who one night is attacked by a witch, Mélida, who drags him by a spell to the far Chirican jungle, taking his assistant with him and two traffic policemen. There they will have to face the horror of the tropical imaginary of the area. It is a presentation of the catalog of dark stories that we have in Panama and that few want to talk about.

 

How did the project fall together in the first place?

 

The project began when Jota [J. Oskura Nájera interview - click here] and I lived in Barcelona, as a mixture of what attracted him the most in our visits to Panama (the decorated and full of lights buses popularly known as Diablos Rojos) and what I remembered with longing from my childhood, the stories that my grandmother's sister told me and my cousins, where there were witches, demonized dogs and fearsome women like the Tulivieja or the Silampa. In 2016 we decided to move to Panama, with a rough draft of a script, to start working more seriously on this project.

 

What can you tell us about Diablo Rojo PTY's writer/producer J. Oskura Nájera, and what was your collaboration like?

 

I have been collaborating on Jota's audiovisual and musical projects for the last 16 years. We do not follow the tasks established by the roles, but we rather help and collaborate in everything we can, be it our areas or not. Jota always has great strength and persistence to carry out the projects in which he is involved, despite all the adversities, and that makes him the main engine of Diablo Rojo PTY, and I am grateful to do this project, and hopefully, the following projects with him.

 

I've read somewhere that Diablo Rojo PTY is Panama's first horror movie - is that true even, and what made you choose to direct a horror film in the light of this?

 

Yes, Diablo Rojo PTY is the first horror feature film in Panama. There are several horror short films, but in reality in Panama it is relatively new to make movies (feature films), maybe only the past 10 years or so, and this is also one of the reasons why it is the first. I chose to direct a horror feature film because it is within my line of work. Additionally, I work within the plastic arts, tiptoeing the line of the dark, the wild, the ugly, the macabre, the viceral, the mystical. Diablo Rojo PTY is a film about the legends that scared me as a child, it is perfect for me.

 

What can you tell us about Diablo Rojo PTY's approach to horror?

 

Diablo Rojo PTY was looking to tell a story in the style of the 80s movies with prosthetics and animatronic effects, with a little bit of adventure and a bit of comedy, but we also wanted to work on the concept of women not as victims, but rather as villains, as terrible women. We love the gore, the eighties aesthetics and above all, thanks to the lights of the bus, we managed to give strong importance to red. It also has some tributes to other movies that we love, especially in the soundtrack and in the creature of La Tulivieja.

 

Diablo Rojo PTY does feature quite a few awesome creatures - so could you talk about the effects work in your movie for a bit?

 

There were several trials of the monster until it came to the creature created by Colombian special effects artist Alex Rojas. Originally it was inspired by the white monster that appears in Poltergeist, but taking certain descriptions of the texts that we found about the Tulivieja, since there are many versions in the oral tradition that speak of it. These and many other references were given to Alex, who worked on the design of the monster. The rest of the effects were worked by our art team, by myself and by Jota Nájera, who are also fans of smearing our hands with slimy substances that stick to your fingers and nails - we sought to portray the humidity of the climate, of the body fluids...

 

A few words about your overall directorial approach to your story at hand?

 

The idea was to make a film like the ones we enjoyed, with a structure like that of B movies from the 80s, but with a language of its own like tropical terror, jungle terror... For me, the most enjoyable thing was directing the witches' covens, from the previous rehearsals, feeling the powerful energy they transmitted and trying to register that force with the camera.

 

On the other hand, on the visual side, we play a lot with the symbols (some appropriate from original cultures or others from neighboring cultures), which may be not visible to the naked eye. The paintings on the same bus give you certain clues, on the driver's side a painting of the Furies as a bad omen of Miguel's tragic end, on Junito's side with a painting of the speedy Hermes. We tried to give bright colors to everything that came from the cosmopolitan city, and to the witches the green and ochre colors, to highlight their wild part.

 

Do talk about your key cast, and why exactly these people?

 

Although we already had some actors thought of from the beginning of writing the script such as Leo Wiznitzer [Leo Wiznither interview - click here] for the role of Father Andrés, or Blas Valois for the role of the stupid police officer Winnie, we entrusted the task of helping select actors to casting director Nyra Soberon, we worked together in the selection, with the characters of Junito, the young assistant, Teo the good cop, Mélida, Josefina and the witches.

 

For Junito, both Nyra and I made several trips together with Julian in the Diablos to analyze the behavior of these drivers' assistants, who grz out to announce the route, and to rush people to get on the bus. For the witches, we made a call and were looking for girls of similar appearance, of the same height, dark hair, and strong body, to give the feeling of a wolfpack. The complicated thing was the trio Mélida, Josefina and Miguel, which was worked out by Nyra, since I was hard headed that Mélida should be played by Alejandra Araúz [Alejandra Araúz interview - click here], but to my surprise Nyra discovered Natalia Beluche, who gave everything interpreting Mélida.

 

What can you tell us about the shoot as such, and the on-set atmosphere?

 

Filming was a bit of a nightmare, always recording at night, getting little sleep, excessive humidity, heat, the immense amount of insects, fear of seeing where we stepped, fear of torrential rains that could delay a day of filming. Never have I had my legs covered with so many bug bites, some actors and even Jota had strange reactions on their skin due to contact with the river water. However, I think that without those locations and without those conditions, Diablo Rojo PTY would not had been the same. They gave us the atmosphere we were looking for.

 

Anything you can tell us about the audience and critical reception of Diablo Rojo PTY?

 

Diablo Rojo PTY is a movie made by fans of the 80s horror for fans of the 80s horror. There have been people who have loved it and people who have not, because it is not scary enough, or the monster is not very realistic, or other reasons, but we did not seek to be that type of film either, so we are happy with the critics, I think almost everyone understood the spirit of the feature film. At least what we have read so far.

 

Any future projects you'd like to share?

 

Jota Nájera is working on the script for a second part of Diablo Rojo PTY. I am also working on several script ideas for short and feature films, and although they are still in the early stages, they will soon begin to take shape.

 

What got you into filmmaking in the first place, and did you receive any formal education on the subject?

 

I studied documentary film, but I soon realized that fiction was my thing, especially the fantastic and horror. I became a sound technician specialized in cinema, and I participated in several cinema laboratories. During the time I lived in Barcelona I was collaborating and learning from other short filmmakers, making some short films, until the Jota Nájera Megamuerte project emerged, where I participated in production, production design and the art department.

 

What can you tell us about your filmwork prior to Diablo Rojo PTY?

 

Initially towards experimental videos, in 2012 I made a black comedy short film called El martillo de las brujas (Malleus Malleficarum) that premiered at the Sitges festival and was selected in a dozen other festivals. I collaborated on several short films in Barcelona’s horror scene and my previous work, as I already mentioned, was on the film Megamuerte, directed by Jota Nájera and released in 2014 at the Sitges International Festival. Currently I am still doing some experimental videos but just for fun.

 

How would you describe yourself as a director?

 

I think I focus more on the acting part than on the technical part. I love developing the characters, designing the visual treatment, the use of colors and the atmospheres, more than in the narrative, in those aspects I have been very much supported by the assistant director (Sergi Galan). I work very closely with Jota Nájera who participated a lot in directing, and I participated with the art department, since I am very into manual tasks.

 

Filmmakers who inspire you?

 

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Kathryn Bigelow, Mary Lambert, Frank Henenlotter, Lucky Mckee, Jan Svankmajer - and an endless list. But for Diablo Rojo PTY we were inspired by Carlos Lopez Moctezuma's Alucarda, Wes Craven's The Serpent and Rainbow, mondo movies like Holocausto Canibal, also Perdita Durango by Alex de la Iglesia, and Suspiria by Argento.

 

Your favourite movies?

 

The Company of Wolves, Near Dark, Suspiria, Hasta el viento tiene miedo and Veneno para las hadas by Carlos Enrique Taboada, Frankenhooker, Carrie (Brian de Palma), recently I really liked Casa Lobo and Zombie Child, which is maybe a little far from the rest, I like too many movies.

 

... and of course, films you really deplore?

 

Hard question, I tend to get a little bored watching movies with many jump scares and CGI effects like Anabelle and similar movies, and I do not connect much with Hammer movies although I consider them super important and necessary. I do not like the cinema of Jess Franco or Jean Rollin at all. I think I am not a very demanding critic.

 

Your/your movie's website, social media, whatever else?

 

Instagram:

@diablorojolapelicula

@armadillowoman

 

Facebook:

Megamuerteband

Elmartillodelasbrujas

Diablorojopty

 

Twitter:

@diablorojo2019

 

Thanks for the interview!

 

© by Mike Haberfelner


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