Dialogue: Fernando Eimbcke


Five years after participating in the first edition of the Berlinale Talent Campus, Mexican writer-director Fernando Eimbcke has returned to the film festival in official competition with his sophomore feature "Lake Tahoe." Considered one of Mexico's most talented new helmers, his feature film debut "Duck Season," a small black-and-white picture, was distributed in more than 30 countries and has screened in about 70 film fests. Eimbcke recently spoke with The Hollywood Reporter about his career and his experiences in Berlin.

Complete Berlinale coverage
Read our 'Lake Tahoe' review

The Hollywood Reporter:
How did your film career begin?
Fernando Eimbcke: I started working as a camera assistant and liked what I was doing, so I decided to apply to a film school called the CUEC. But I didn't have much of a film background and I didn't get accepted into the school. So for about a year after that, I just started watching a lot of films, mostly the classics. One year later, I reapplied to the school and got in.

THR: What was your first short film about?
Eimbcke: It was called "Excuse the Disturbances." At that time, I was working at a bar, so I decided to do a short about a girl who gets ill at a bar and vomits on the clients. It just seemed like it would be a fun anecdote at the time. (Laughing) But it really wasn't about much of anything.

THR: After graduating film school, you got your first paid jobs directing music videos?
Eimbcke: Yes. I did videos mostly of rock groups like Plastilina Mosh, El Gran Silencio and Molotov. It was really fun and I could experiment a lot with wide shots, which was a very useful experience when I started working in film.

THR: When did you make the transition from music videos to feature films?
Eimbcke: The big change in my career when I started working with (screenwriter) Paula Markovitch. She used to give screenwriting workshops at the film school, and then we got together later to write "Duck Season." That's when I really started paying attention to dramatic structure, character development and the conflict in the story. For me, that was the best schooling I've ever had.

THR: Then you worked with her again on "Lake Tahoe"?
Eimbcke: Yes, it was an amazing experience and it was also very painful and complicated because it was much more personal, but I learned so much in the process.

THR: Your name is usually mentioned among the new generation of filmmakers that has played such an important role in revitalizing Mexican cinema. Why has Mexico seen such a boom in film lately?
Eimbcke: It's all because of the diversity that you're seeing now in production schemes and subject matter. I think this is one of the best eras for Mexican cinema. If you compare it to Mexico's Golden Era of Cinema (in the '40s and '50s) there are some similarities, but the themes today are so much more diverse. It's important to have guys like (Alfonso) Cuaron and (Alejandro) Gonzalez Inarritu doing big films, and at the same time you have documentary filmmakers and directors like (Carlos) Reygadas doing smaller films and inventing a new form of filmmaking. I think I'm part of a very important generation.

THR: Would you ever consider doing an English-language production as Cuaron, Gonzalez Inarritu and Guillermo del Toro have done?
Eimbcke: The funny thing about that is that right now all the scripts I have are from the U.S. For some unknown reason, I don't have any Mexican scripts. I haven't had time to give them serious consideration because I've been focusing on finishing "Lake Tahoe." I don't have a problem considering English-language screenplays, but I am not familiar with the production scheme in the U.S., so I always have that doubt if it's something I really want to do. It's a very big industry with a lot of money and I don't know how much creative control I could have.

THR: In recent years, Mexican cinema has been received well throughout the world, yet at home financing difficulties persist and it's still tough for producers to recoup their investments here. What are you thoughts on this?
Eimbcke: There's always that doubt where the funding will come from for your next film, but at the same time, it's one of the best moments to be working in Mexico. I think Mexican cinema has much more to offer than boxoffice results. People here are doing the kinds of films they want to do and that's really important because that doesn't happen everywhere in the world. If you can make money, that's great, but that shouldn't be the main objective. A good example is Cuaron's 'And Your Mother Too,' which did very well at boxoffices in Mexico and the United States, but it was also his most personal film.

Before your career had taken off, you participated in the Berlinale Talent Campus. Describe that experience.
Eimbcke: It was exciting because it was the first edition of the Talent Campus. I had a short film there called "The Look of Love" and I was sitting in on talks with directors, editors and cinematographers. I remember very clearly a talk that Spike Lee gave. He said it would be interesting to meet in Berlin in 10 years to see how many of us would actually do a film. In other words, he was saying that very few of us would accomplish that.

THR: Any other memories as you look back?
Eimbcke: Yes, one of my fondest memories was a retrospective of Yasujiro Ozu, which had a profound impact on me because I was preparing "Duck Season" at the time. I remember that I really wanted to see "Tokyo Story," but like many of the screenings there, it was sold out. So I asked a security guard to let me in, which he agreed to do, and it turns out the film gave me a lot of ideas on how to shoot "Duck Season."

Nationality: Mexican
Born: December 15, 1970
Selected filmography: Co-wrote and directed "Duck Season" (2004) and "Lake Tahoe" (2008)
Notable awards: "Duck Season" garnered the 2004 Grand Jury Prize at the 2004 AFI Fest, 11 of Mexico's Ariel awards, and a nomination for best foreign film at the 2006 Independent Spirit Awards