The story of a sweet potato vendor in Mexico City that stalks with his presence and -above all- with the spooky howl that his car emits, a lonely and decadent exotic dancer.
Written by: Juan Carlos Lelo de Larrea
Co-Directed by: Montserrat Larque & Juan Carlos Lelo de Larrea
Interview with Juan Carlos Lelo de Larrea (JC) and Montserrat Larque (ML)
Name and what you did in the film?
JC: Sweet Howl / Dulce Alarido – Co director / writer / cinematographer / Juan Carlos Lelo de Larrea
ML: Sweet Howl / Dulce Alarido – Co director focus in actors direction / Montserrat Larqué
What inspired you, or attracted you, to work on this film?
JC: I think there are many characters in Mexico City that are deeply part of our identity and that we often take for granted. People and their trades and crafts that have survived almost untouched by the decades and some times dizzily transformations of the urban life. One of this very peculiar characters is the sweet potato vendor, who drives the streets at night pushing his cart with the loud whistle to announce his goods in the neighborhoods. This peculiar whistle hunted me for many years since my childhood. To me it felt like a melancholic lament almost as the howl of a banshee and since then I wanted to tell a story with this howl as a protagonist. To me the short is a homage to his trade and a form to celebrate and preserve this element of my city identity.
ML: I was a jury for the short film contest of the Mexican Film Institute and this short was a finalist so it was a happy surprise when Juan Carlos reach out to me for feed back and later on to invite me co direct the short. The story and characters really inspired me and without doubt they are some fo their finest qualities.
What do you like most about the story?
JC: I like how the young vendor overcomes his almost creepy shyness and changes his relation to the dancer.
ML: I really like the characters and the turn in the story where the lesser and darkest character ends being the hero. I like the public surprise at the end, the dark tone and the Mexicanity of the story: a universal story with a very Mexican vein.
How did you get involved in filmmaking?
JC: I always loved films and stories but as a child I never thought I could make one. And when very young I some time saw myself more as a writer. But in college, there was a very mysterious aura that cover the kids that were shooting film and that really attracted me and wanted to learn more about that mysterious craft and magic that many times happened in dark rooms and operated with almost alchemistic formulas.
ML: In college I didn’t planned for a filmmaking career but when I first looked through the finder of a 16mm camera I felt in love with the feeling and wanted to keep doing it.
Tell us about your process? Where do you start?
JC: As a writer, I like to tell stories that I deeply relate to me. Many topics, characters, atmospheres constantly live in my mind and I try all the time to imagine stories with this elements. A few times the stories begin to take a dense form and then I begin to discuss them with friends and co workers. After this I begin to write outlines and try to give them a dramatic structure. And after I think the dramatics structure is sufficiently solid I begin to write it in a film script format.
As a cinematographer, I look a lot for inspiration in painting and still photography. When dealing with a project, I go through a list of artist I like and go through may images to conform a mood board that will reference color, lighting, emotional energy, framing, etc.
ML: As a writer I play with many idas until finally one occupies the center and all the others circle it, and then I do a lot of research. As a director I work a lot with the actors and try to build a relationship based on trust therefore I work a lot in a personal level before I start to work with the story. I like to see how is their creative process and how do they relate to the story and based on that build together a character.
Tell us some difficulties during the process or a unique story that happened?
JC: One of the many challenges we face with this short was that the locations we choose for shooting the night exteriors for their unique character, texture, atmosphere and lack of parked cars were very lonely and dangerous so we have to had a security team and a very disciplined shooting plan to complete all our shots and not having any safety issues.
The crowd funding campaign was also very challenging. It is not a job I feel at ease doing or have done before, but my eagerness to tell the story and produce the film was greater and happily I overcome it.
ML: The dance of the dancer was very difficult because the character needed to be very vulnerable. Also shooting in very dangerous areas of Mexico City was very challenging.
Tell us how important independent filmmaking is to you?
JC: To me independent film making is ALL important. As one of the actors in the short said, it is with independent film that one can truly find his voice as a creator. And I think the craft, culture, and society in general deeply benefits from having many diverse voices to tell the stories of our time and not only those of the big studios and networks.
ML: It is completely important. In Mexico almost all production is independent and in the world it is the independent films that take risks, bring innovation and boldness to stories and later major studios can bring those innovations into their stories.
What are you currently working on or plan to work on in the future?
JC: I’m currently working on a series of 4 music videos for the rock singer Juan Carlos & Black Hat that will tell a whole story in 4 parts. And I am also finishing writing four additional short stories that together with Sweet Howl are planned to work as a feature film with contemporary urban sounds as a leit motive.
ML: I´m finishing post production of my first feature and developing my first episodic series and founding my second feature.
What are some filmmakers, directors, writers that inspire you?
JC: I really like the work of the Cohen Brothers, Sam Mendez, Aronofsky, Coppola, Scorsese, Kelly Reichard, Wong Kar-Wai, Sergio Leone, Arturo Ripstein, Guillermo del Toro, Luis Alcoriza, Ridley Soctt and many others as directors and story tellers and I deeply admire the cinematography work of Storaro, Deakins, Rodrigo Prieto, Lubeski, Cronenweth, John Alton, Conrad Hall and Cristopher Doyle. Some of the writers that inspire me are Roberto Bolaño, Melvilie, Kerouac, Borges, Vargasllosa, Bradbury, Italo Calvino and also many others.
ML: Guillermo Del Toro, Cuarón, The golden period of Mexican cinema, Billy Wilder and its very interesting stories where he shows the sadness and mysteries of human life, Fellini, Italian contemporary cinema, Sorrentino and Buñuel.
Any advice to filmmakers just starting out?
JC: I think film making is a long resistance race more like a marathon and less than the 100mts. Perseverance and learning to take with humor and light spirit the many doors that will shot before one opens is crucial.
Also learn to embrace collaboration and to balance it with your unique inner voice.
ML: You have to work a lot, and do what it takes and do it with excellence. Be daring and a little wild.
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