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Mexico’s Luciana Kaplan on Indigenous Candidate Doc ‘The Spokeswoman’

Jamie Lang

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In 2017, Luciana Kaplan’s globe-spanning documentary feature “Rush Hour” was selected as the best in competition at that year’s Morelia Intl. Film Festival – only one of many such plaudits for the film – and the director returned to the festival Impulso section for pix-in-post with her next latest, “The Spokeswoman,” taking three of the event’s five prizes.

Kaplan’s scored a jury special mention, the Ambulante Award of $2,600 in cash to be used for post-production, and the Churubusco Azteca Studios Award of $42,000 in post-production and sound services.

“The Spokeswoman,” tells the story of María de Jesús Patricio, popularly known as Marichuy, the first indigenous woman to run for president in Mexico. The film explores her appointment as spokeswoman for the National Indigenous Congress until the presidential elections of July 1, 2018, presenting many challenges that she and the CNI have faced. The film documents the nature and complexity of racism and gender discrimination faced by Jesús Patricio and Mexican society on a more macro level.

Kaplan talked with Variety about the project.

How did the project start? When did you start following Maria?

In 2017, Carolina Coppel, the producer of the project, contacted me because I had heard a rumor that the National Indigenous Congress and the EZLN would launch a campaign for an independent indigenous candidate in the 2018 presidential elections. We decided to approach them and ask permission to follow the whole process. At that time, it was still unclear who the candidate would be, but they gave us the green light to start the project anyway, so we decided to start researching. Filming started in May 2017 when they named Marichuy (Jesús Patricio) as the spokeswoman for the movement.

What surprised you most about Maria’s qualification process for the elections?

It was a complex process, but to me the most interesting thing was trying to understand the proposal and point of view of the National Indigenous Council in their appointment. One thing that surprised me was that it really was not so important for them to get to the ballot, but rather to put the indigenous problems facing the country back on the front burner.

This film has a much more focused perspective than “Rush Hour.” What did you have to do differently to tell such a specific story?

“Rush Hour” was born from a very personal reflection on my experience as a resident of a large city. With “The Spokeswoman,” it was about portraying a very specific process and taking an X-ray of the country through the situation surrounding and demands of indigenous peoples today. I think that each movie you make has something different it’s looking for. It depends massively on the director’s concerns at the time they are making it and finding the way to tell a unique and transcendent story that is relevant, and putting it in a historical context.

Do you know when and where are you going to release the movie?

We are still in the editing process, so we haven’t finalized a premiere date or place. We are working on a media campaign that can accompany the film and help put on the table several issues around the defense of indigenous peoples’ territories, and defining what progress means, and at whose expense it is achieved.

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