Gabriel Herrera on “Al motociclista no le cabe la felicidad en el traje” / interview

The filmmaker and video artist was born in Mexico. He studied film at the Escuela Nacional de Artes Cinematográficas in Mexico City and at the Polish National Film School in Łódź. He has made several short films and video works. He currently lives in Mexico where he is taking a doctorate in film theory while teaching film and making social documentaries. He is also developing his debut feature film.

What was your starting point for “Al motociclista no le cabe la felicidad en el traje”?

A few years ago, Stefanie (cinematographer) and I were leaving a shopping mall in Poland when a troop of motorcyclists made a sudden and theatrical entry into the large parking lot. The bikers were going round and round in circles, making a spectacle that no one had asked for, flirting with the entire parking lot, pirouetting, lifting the front tire like Arthurian knights.

To me, who has little or no interest in motorcycles or motorcyclists (I might even say I find them loud and irritating), they were offering a spectacle I couldn’t really understand: and so the bikers were exhibiting their own beauty regardless of how much their spectators could really perceive it or understand it. This fact about them somehow moved me, and it raised a series of questions about the nature of handsomeness and spectacle. In that strange sense, being handsome seemed to me as an act of generosity… as long as they were handsome on their own terms, and not on the terms demanded by the „world“ (or by me and Steffi, in that case). A spectacle that is not there to indulge into its audience’s taste, but to offer itself, under its own rules, freely. In this strange sense a “conquest” (and a “conqueror”) was a form of offering yourself to the others. I found this idea to be contradictory, politically incorrect, and at the same time provocative and loving: to acknowledge that there is something about vanity that is also an honest offering of yourself to the others. To be handsome as an act of the most genuine and joyful generosity.

Do you have a favourite moment in the film? Which one and why this one?

It would have to be the one with the kid (Joel) hitting the plastic toys that hang all over the motorcyclist and the motorcycle. For two things: when I saw it after the shoot I felt this shot was the “rule” that the rest of the shots had to follow: self contained but improvised, with something arbitrary and collaged, mixing the self-importance of the movie with something that is constantly making fun of it and undermining it (or playing the game of the film but at the same time laughing at the game its playing). I hope there is something simultaneously religious and ridiculous in the shot, a feeling with which I identify. Secondly: we simply had so much fun shooting that specific scene. I was laughing all the time, David (the motorcyclist) was holding his laugh as well, and it was not meant to be a scene as important as it finally was. I am not good at improvising (I tend to get parallyzed by the pressure of the film-set) and the whole thing was largely improvised, which for me felt like a small personal triumph.

What do you like about the short form?

I’ve always loved the short form.Needless to say, it has its own rules, its own time, and its own logic. It doesn’t need the level of justification that is often felt necessary by the long form (where the narrative might demand more attention than the film itself). And I feel most justifications tend to be an escape from the film and its power. In a traditional feature film you often feel like you must justify the character’s actions, the dramatic turns, the psychology, etcetera… all with which I tend to get bored: you have this scene because it will allow for the next scene to exist or to be understandable. My feeling is that in the short form the scenes can exist with absolute freedom and not just to justify each other, but to look into each other or to reflect about each other. Each shot allows you to look at the previous or following shot differently, but is not there to “explain” them but to inflame them, to make them explode.

Photo © Gabriel Herrera

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