VIVIANA GARCÍA BESNÉ: Initially, my uncle Memo refused us an interview for Perdida. When he finally gave one, I realized this man, now at 90, and with 200 films behind him, felt barely appreciated, if not hated, by younger generations. I began the documentary questioning the kinds of films my family had produced. But the result has been something of a rebirth. Now people call to congratulate my uncle on his career! Perdida has given us many unimagined surprises, but perhaps the most special is how some critics, who once disparaged the family’s films, now approach me in a very different tone, mostly admitting that parts of our story were unknown, and that, in some way, they now understand and appreciate the ficheras genre. This recognition has been an enormous gift, especially as these days I feel fortunate, not ashamed, to be part of the Calderon family.
ALISTAIR TREMPS: President Echeverria’s de facto nationalization of the film industry created a rift that still exists between the auteur filmmakers, academics and critics who took over the country’s filmmaking institutions and the old-time producers who were ostracized along with their popular genres and formulas. I think that Perdida has arrived at the right time to make a modest contribution to a reconciliation of sorts between the present and the past of Mexican cinema.
DONNELLY: Do you feel that such a populist genre cinema could happen again in Mexico?
TREMPS: The whole model has changed so much that it seems difficult for the golden age of popular Mexican cinema to return. The price of a single cinema ticket is higher than Mexico’s minimum daily wage, so a large percentage of the population is automatically excluded from theaters. In turn this defines the type of films that are made, which are often aimed at middle-class audiences who can afford a cinema ticket (plus popcorn, etc.). In any case, the role of popular entertainment has long since been taken over by the telenovela.
DONNELLY: What is the legacy of Cinematográfica Calderón?
GARCÍA BESNÉ: The most important thing was passion to produce films at all costs. This led them to create the Rumbera, Luchador and Fichera genres and to explore others, always hoping to fill the theaters and recoup enough to continue making movies. They were so keen to make the industry work that they constantly reinvented themselves and explored new formulas for box office successes. They also built a lovely rounded business, from production to distribution through exhibition. Today, that cycle no longer exists, and it might be important to review the past, see what is missing and to get that working again.
DONNELLY: What do you think of current Hollywood productions?
GARCÍA BESNÉ: Sorry! Between making the documentary and having two babies in the last three years I have seen nothing! Ask again after I watch movies like crazy in Telluride!