[Spoiler Alert]

The dog’s death scene is incredibly unsettling. How did you decide how much to show of it on-screen? 

That scene was always important because I knew I needed it narratively. They needed to get rid of that obstacle, so I knew I needed that. Also, I knew that scene was going to give me one of the few opportunities to show Jeffrey’s emotional side, and to even make the audience, for a perverse second, relate to Jeffrey. Something I’ve noticed is that’s very curious is that a lot of the audience, even though that dog has killed a lot of Mexicans, still really suffer watching that scene. I remember the visual effects supervisor begging me regularly to cut away from the dog because it was a very complicated effect.

He kept saying, “Why don’t you just have the moment where Gael shoots? We show a couple of frames and then go back to the Gael.” To me, it was very important, not only with the dog but also with all the other characters that died, to try to show the violence in the most matter-of-fact [way], and not trying to shy away from violence.

My son is eight, so he’s starting to be obsessed with all these new action movies and superhero movies. In a way, sometimes I worry because violence in those movies ends up being so abstract, no visual, and it’s not respectful to the consequences of that violence, so sometimes I worry that that’s an irresponsible approach to it. With Desierto, dealing with a very violent subject matter it was important to show the violence on screen.

[Spoilers Over]

Hearing you discuss your problems with how violence is often depicted in tentpole films, just like Desierto, do you want to ground your Zorro film, Z, more in reality?

I think that when you ground the film, it’s so much more effective. A good example for that was what Jeffrey did with Desierto. To me, Jeffrey gave the villain a very human performance, and in a way to me that makes it even more terrifying. When you see the human side of Jeffrey, you realize that monster exists. Definitely with Zorro grounding the story is important. Again, the same thing with Desierto. I was trying to recreate what genre films from the 1970s used to do, which is do political movies, do movies that talked about important issues but disguise all of those issues under the genre. Obviously, not going to be the subtle, but that project, Z, interests me because it seems like a good jumping board for discussing lots of very important social issues, to work through and disguise in the genre.

When you first mentioned Desierto to your father, you both discussed cat and mouse movies. Was there one film in particular that you talked about or inspired you? 

To me, the most important title, because it’s the title that when I saw that film it really inspired me to try to approach cinema in that way, is Duel by Spielberg. I saw it when I was a kid and I loved it. I re-watched it eight or ten years ago, and I was really amazed, not only by its simplicity and how it manages to keep you gripped to your seat with such a simple narrative, but how, at the end, it’s just a story of a truck chasing a car, but it can become a story about so many other things.

It can become a story about bullies, about your boss at work harassing you, a person in the audience can project whatever they want on that truck. That was a little bit the idea with both Desierto and, I think, Gravity. Obviously, they have very specific meanings, but as an audience, you can watch those movies and see them beyond the politics of the film. You can see Jeffrey not only as a manifestation of hatred, but you can also see him as whatever person or monster you have chasing after you at that moment. I really believe that we all, in one way or another, are running away from one monster.

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