“I don’t think the Mexican film industry gets me,” says director Chucho E. Quintero. A talented filmmaker with aspirations that reach far beyond the borders of his hometown of Veracruz, Quintero is a part of the rapidly expanding Latin American LGBT film industry.
“There are interesting things beyond the drug cartels and crime. There are more and more interesting stories being told,” says Quintero.
Taking an unusual path into filmmaking, Quintero found his way to film by working as a translator for Mexican film festivals.
“I started translating in 2010 as a favor,” he recalls. “Then I started charging. I really wanted to find something useful to do with my English!”
He goes on to explain, “I had wanted to be an actor, but started realizing it wouldn’t work out for me. Then I watched Garden State, the film directed by American actor Zach Braff, and it made me realize I could do it. Independent films really changed me.”
In 2011, Quintero directed his first feature film, Six Pack, a coming of age tale about a group of four high school friends who are preparing to go their separate ways at the end of high school. Looking for one last chance to spend time together before entering the grown up, career world, the friends decide to go see their favorite band performing in Jacksonville, FL.
“Six Pack was made with no money,” explains the director. “I had no idea how to make a movie. Every one of us were just kids, and I was crazy enough to think if I had already made two shorts then I could make a feature film too!”
Inspired by his first feature film experience, Quintero immediately got to work on his next project, the critically-acclaimed Velociraptor. A dramatic, sci-fi, gay sex comedy, Velociraptor has been screening around the globe with much praise, and is recognized as an essential Latin American LGBT film.
“With Velociraptor I thought, ‘let’s make a good feature that just makes sense,’” Quintero explains. “I quit film school due to the cost, and used the money to make the feature film instead. I tried to make it as professional as I could, but keep the lo-fi guerilla style from Six Pack. At times we only had five in the crew, and at one point only three of us. Only two actors, and no film permits! It felt lo-fi, yet still very professional. Velociraptor was the best time I ever had making anything.”
Quintero goes on to share, “I’m really grateful to TLA Releasing in taking a chance on such a small movie. You see what’s screening at some of these film festivals and they are huge in Latin America compared to us. You know, Velociraptor was made for less than $10,000. That’s the Craft Services budget for one day in some of these other films.”
Continuing his meteoric growth, Chucho E. Quintero is currently in post-production for his third feature film, These Peculiar Days (Los días particulares). Another adolescent coming of age tale, These Peculiar Days (Los días particulares) is the story of eight friends who graduate high school and celebrate by staying in a cabin in the woods. Filled with parties, drinking, love triangles, and sex, These Peculiar Days (Los días particulares) is poised to deliver yet another crowd pleasing film experience.
“I’m intrigued by that time of life,” explains Quintero. “I’ve always identified with director Larry Clark’s famous quote, ‘Adolescence is the time when everything feels bigger and so intense.’ It worked out that Six Pack, Velociraptor, and These Peculiar Days (Los días particulares) became a trilogy of Adolescence.”
However, despite his obvious talent for storytelling, Quintero faces an uphill battle. Living in a culturally vibrant and predominantly Catholic nation, LGBT issues are still very taboo in much of Mexico. This often leaves Quintero’s films hanging in a strange limbo, overlooked by his home country and loved by audiences who are thousands of miles away. What the Mexican film industry doesn’t realize is this is pushing a talented director to head north across the Rio Grande like many others before him.
“Almost every Mexican film festival has said ‘No’ to my work,” he says. “It’s bittersweet when I get a rejection letter in Mexico and on the same day I’ll get a great review on a major UK or US site. Everything is happening so far from here, and I often don’t get to enjoy it. The mentality here is different from what I am. I want to make a Mexican-American movie.”
All pictures reproduced courtesy of Chucho E. Quintero