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Jonás Cuarón discusses making “Desierto.”

Jonás Cuarón is an emerging director who worked with his Academy Award winning father Alfonso Cuarón on “Gravity.” He ventures off into the barren desert of the US-Mexican border in “Desierto.” He was in Denver during the CineLatino Film Festival to discuss his new dramatic thriller.


“I grew up in New York but lately I’ve been in Mexico City so its refreshing to be in a city where you can see the horizon,” Cuarón exclaimed about the beautiful view in the conference room where we conducted the interview.”

Making movies wasn’t Jonás’ top priority until college when he met his wife who had a fondness for the cinema. Their collaboration on a small film changed his career path from being more focused in English lit to movie-making. This was another way for Cuarón to tell a story.

“I never thought I was going to do cinema. I was more interested in being a writer. But then in University, I met my wife and she was studying art history and was interested in cinema so she started showing me a lot of movies. We started making some shorts together and that’s when I realized that as a storytelling medium it was great for me. It allowed me to tell the stories that I wanted to tell but also use other mediums where it was sound music visuals so I became very interested in the language.”

It wasn’t until a trip he took with his brother a decade ago that inspired him to make “Desierto.”

“10 years ago I was travelling through Arizona and my brother. And on that trip the Mexican consultant in Tuscon invited us to see their location. They gave us a tour of their facilities and on that tour they told lots of stories about the migrant crossing over from Mexico to AZ which is the biggest migration in the US,” he said. “There stories were really tragic so I began reading up on the subject matter a lot. I wanted to make a movie about it and I didn’t know the best approach.”

Cuarón continued and admitted that his inspiration for “Desierto” came from an unexpected source: Steven Spielberg’s “Duel.”

“I became impressed about how a movie that was straight action had other layers of reading. Sometimes we think that action movie just means pure entertainment.”

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“Desierto” ventures of the Spielberg-ian path by interjecting the climate of current events

But to some degree, “Desierto” ventures of the Spielberg-ian path by interjecting the climate of current events and heated rhetoric as a narrative thriller.

“I thought it would be interesting to tell a story about migration and this hatred toward the other, the foreign, but tell instead to tell it through a rhetorical or journalistic film tell it through a straight horror movie.”

“Desierto” isn’t the type of horror movie we think of, per say. However, it is about one individual killing character one person at a time in a horrific situation. Like any movie, there are always challenges in filming. For Cuarón, it was shooting in the arid and desolate region of a desert. He even admitted that the producers were frustrated with his too authentic location.

“Every day of the film was a nightmare mostly because of the desert,” he said. “I did choose this location. I spent four years looking for this location and I found this beautiful location in Mexico.”

The country of Mexico recently selected “Diserto” as their official foreign language Oscar submission and Cuarón was rather pleased his movie was chosen.

“I am very excited and grateful,” he said, ” I was already excited that it was opening in the US mid October. For me, its an amazing date for the movie. Weeks before Halloween and month before the election. Coming here with the blessings of the Mexican film Academy makes me very happy. It already opened in Mexico and it played really well. Now that the critics support makes me really happy.”

“Desierto” is relentless in the tension. It is a non-stop thrills, but Cuarón hope audiences get more out of the movie then just escapist fun. It has a message, too.

“Every day of the film was a nightmare mostly because of the desert,” he said. “I did choose this location. I spent four years looking for this location and I found this beautiful location in Mexico.”

“Desierto” isn’t the type of horror movie we think of, per say. However, it is about one individual killing character one person at a time in a horrific situation. Like any movie, there are always challenges in filming. For Cuarón, it was shooting in the arid and desolate region of a desert. He even admitted that the producers were frustrated with his too authentic location.

“Beyond the surface, I think that the main thing besides it being an enjoyable, nerve wrecking roller-coaster ride for them. It is a cautionary tale of where society can end up going to since we are being bombarded with so much hate and so many speeches filled with hatred.”

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“Desierto” opens in limited release this weekend with plans to expand during the coming weeks.

“Desierto” opens in limited release this weekend with plans to expand during the coming weeks.

What are your thoughts on “Desierto?”