José Luis Solís Olivares: human depth emerges from The pool of the Nobodies
Winner as Best International Feature film at the Fabrique Du Cinéma Awards 2022, The pool of the Nobodies (La alberca de los Nadies) directed by Mexican director José Luis Solís Olivares is a movie you won’t be able to forget.
What was once a luxurious ranch, taken from its rightful owners by the drug cartel to be turned into a recruiting camp, will be the setting for a mass murder. The pool of the Nobodies is a direct punch in the face that tells the reality of violence as it is: there is no escape, you can only try to survive by betraying your deepest self. Brought to the limit, to what extent can we impersonate the role of someone we no longer recognize to save ourselves?
In our interview with director José Luis Solís Olivares, emerges the complexity of a social reality that violently clashes with the fragility of feelings.
The pool of the Nobodies is your second film. In 2015 you made your directorial debut with Gringo. What is the common thread in your stories?
Gringo, The pool of the Nobodies and my next movie are a trilogy about events that took place in Mexico in 2010. Gringo is a more personal film about a PhD doctor that finished his studies in Canada returns to Monterrey (Mexico), which is my hometown, and he's not able to find a job, so he's forced to leave the country. The story is also about a guy who lost his father because he defended his country house from the Mexican drug lords. The trilogy is almost based on real subjects. It's not a strict historical fiction, I take those events and out of those events I create alternative stories. The pool of the Nobodies is based on a terrible event that happened in August 2010. 73 migrants were found dead, killed out in the open in a country house in Tamaulipas. No one knows what happened in the hours before the massacre. After looking into it I found out that it was a message from drug cartels to the Mexican society.
Can you guide us towards your writing process?
First, I tried to clarify all the facts, then I started to research the motives. The one in the film is a recruitment camp. One day I was reading some material related with violence and the first question I asked myself was: I'm a married guy, we have a teenage daughter, what are going to be the boundaries I’ll need to break in order to save my family? In that moment the real idea of the movie was born.
Tell us more about your directing vision, including from a technical point of view.
I wanted to show an image that looks ill in the outdoors, that's why it looks blueish, we decided to have this white sun, no warm colors because we wanted to reflect in a metaphorical way that our country is sick. In the final cut of the movie there are two jumps of space and time but it's minimal, it's mostly a long take. We tried the 22mm on the Alexa Mini camera. We liked it and we said: let's do it. During the shooting of the movie, we started to develop more and more this idea of out of focus. Instead, non-graphic violence was a statement since the beginning.
What were the films that influenced your work?
Veronica by Paco Plaza, Elephant by Gus Van Sant and Son Of Saul by László Nemes.
How did you cast the actors?
I decided that all the migrants were going to be portrayed by real migrants. I wrote the movie for Danny Bautista and María Mercedes Coroy. Danny was a real migrant. First, I started writing the script for Danny Bautista, then I expanded the female part. Their performance was phenomenal. María Mercedes Coroy won at FICMY Merida & Yucatan Film Festival a week before the Fabrique Du Cinéma Awards.
Through the story of Alex (Danny Bautista) and Anayeli (María Mercedes Coroy), we witness a progressive annihilation of their moral values. Survival is complementary to violence: if you don't kill you don't live, and if you live, you must inhibit your feelings. Is there no hope for a way out?
In the real events, one migrant survived and the official story about what happened there is absurd. In those kind of recruitment camps, made of tests and tests, there is hope for surviving only if you embrace violence. The only other option to survive is to pay for your release. Hope is linked to violence. Alex’s character strategy is to be part of this criminal organization in order to save her. Finally, he doesn't have that violent evilness nature.
What inspired the film's title, the visual metaphor of the story?
Sebastião Salgado, a Brazilian photographer, has some books on the exodus of refugees. I started to see this pile of corpses and this empty pool with a pile of corpses came to my mind. ''Los Nadies'' (I nessuno) comes from a famous poem written by Eduardo Galeano. He was the one who used the word ‘‘Nadies’’ as an adjective for people. I also grew up going to these kind of country houses and experienced not going to these places anymore because it was dangerous.
Could a cinema that exalts the value of feelings be a weapon against the empire of violence?
Our approach, as fiction storytellers, is related with feelings. In Spanish we say 'ponerse en los zapatos de la gente' (put yourself in someone else’s shoes). My approach was: for just 1 hour and a half I'm going to force you the audience to use those shoes. The movie is not an invitation to reflect on migration, it's a punch in your face.
by Aurora Caruso