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“It’s like a cancer. We have a tumor now. That doesn’t mean the cancer started with that tumor. It was gestating for so long,” the Mexican director told a Toronto International Film Festival press conference. The Shape of Water, which won a Golden Lion in Venice over the weekend, sees Sally Hawkins star as a mute cleaning woman who falls in love with a sea monster being held captive by the U.S. government.
What was wrong during the Cold War, del Toro maintains, remains wrong today. “The idea of the movie is to say, 1962 is the time that Americans go back in their imagination, when they say let’s ‘Make America Great Again,'” he told journalists.
The filmmaker recalls in his movie a romanticized 1960s America where men drove jet-fin cars, women were “well-coiffed” and homes were built for convenience. “If you were white, Anglo-Saxon and Protestant, it’s was a great time to be alive. If you were not, if you were anything else, it was not,” del Toro said.
Now the U.S. has returned to political uncertainty and anxiety. “The pendulum swung back 30 years in the last year and a half. It’s very, very troublesome that so many horrible things can be manifest,” said the helmer.
The Trump presidency may have surprised many, but not del Toro and fellow Mexicans attempting to make new lives in the U.S., he explained. “I’ve seen, for most people, this thing started two years ago. But if you’re Mexican, and you crossed the border, they never really went away. They’ve been latent all this time,” del Toro said of anti-immigration proponents.
The Mexican director said his latest film aims at change for the Trump era: “The idea is to say, that was then, and this now, and I do hope that the world lasts long enough that we can start repairing it again.”
The Shape of Water, which also stars Octavia Spencer, Michael Shannon, Doug Jones and Richard Jenkins, is set to be released Dec. 8 by Fox Searchlight.
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