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Omar Rodriguez Lopez Video Interview With Details Magazine at SXSW about Los Chidos & At The Drive In
Flixclusive Interview: Omar Rodriguez-Lopez (Los Chidos)
Omar Rodriguez-Lopez is a very passionate man. As a huge fan of At the Drive-In, I was never truly aware of just how passionate he is. Most may know him as a guitarist for At the Drive-In and The Mars Volta, but he’s also an aspiring filmmaker, having written, directed, and produced a few films under the Rodriguez-Lopez Productions name. Read on as we discuss what drives him as a person and his thoughts on gender roles in society and how that translated into the dialogue being created in Los Chidos.
Could you tell me a bit about Los Chidos and why you wanted to make the film?
Omar Rodriguez-Lopez: Just to open a dialogue, to get a dialogue open about things that aren’t really discussed, but are there in plain sight. I thought that satire was the best way to do it, because otherwise, it would be a mean film. If you use humor and satire, and the over-dub, you know, to keep an arm’s distance from the thing, then you remember you’re actually looking at something that’s actually supposed to provoke questions more than anything else.
The over-dub was a huge thing. Why did you choose to do that instead of just recording live?
ORL: Again, to keep an arm’s length from the whole story in and of itself, and to remind the viewer constantly that it’s a fantasy, that it’s a farce, that it’s a fable, that’s it allegory. It’s not about, like normally, films are about being emotionally invested in the characters and all that sort of thing. I did an interview earlier with a man who said, “Well, there’s too much crazy stuff and I couldn’t be emotionally invested in it.” That’s not the point of the film. That’s not the film I made. The film is to, again, get a dialogue going about a very real problem, not only in our culture, in Latin culture, but every culture in the world. For women who see the film, for the majority of them, they say, “Thank you. Finally someone who did this.” And there’s people who really like the film, and then there’s men who say, “Why?” They’re sort of off-put by it because it’s a critique on male culture, that’s the culture I’m talking about when I’m saying I’m critiquing my own culture. Yes, I’m a male Latino, but you have to see it in a broader perspective and not, you know… I’m talking about male culture, I’m talking about domination, oppression, exploitation, and the relationship between The Exploiter and The Exploited.
You do keep the film at an arm’s distance, but do you feel that distance could possibly undercut what you’re trying to say?
ORL: No, because there’s other films that can do it as a drama. That’s not the path I chose. Again, my intent is to have a dialogue going, like how one speaks is up to the individual. I chose to speak in a very particular way here during this dialogue. And I understand that it’s not for everybody, some people will be put off by it and not want to have the dialogue… It could because they don’t want to talk about the issues, it could be because, quite frankly, they didn’t like the film, and it wasn’t their cup of tea. All things being equal, that’s completely valid and just as important as the people who like my film.
For the over-dub, you did everything in post-production, I remember you saying that at the Q&A [following the premiere of Los Chidos]. You mentioned that your own Father did the voice of the Father. Did all the other [actors] do their own voices?
Los Angeles Times: SXSW 2012: Omar Rodriguez Lopez targets male ego in ‘Los Chidos’
When Omar Rodriguez Lopez picks up an electric guitar with The Mars Volta, his playing is usually defined by its otherworldly, psychedelic effects. But as a producer-director picking up a camera for his latest film, “Los Chidos,” his artwork has medicinal properties that are more akin to ipecac than acid. That is to say, he’s more interested in purging and exposing the worst parts of reality than escaping from them.
Ahead of next month’s reunion with his landmark band At the Drive-In at the Coachella festival in Indio, Calif., the El Paso native headed to the South by Southwest festival in Austin, Texas, this week to unveil his latest film, “Los Chidos.” Speaking on the phone with Pop & Hiss, he says that the main objective of this dark comedy about a Mexican family destroyed by machismo, misogyny, classism and homophobic values was to help him heal and become a better person.
And, of course, making movies forces the often reclusive guitarist to get out of his house.
“Anytime I make a film, I have to go out and meet people, I have to go book a place to rehearse, I have to meet strangers,” Rodriguez Lopes said. “That’s therapy for me. Because I’m the type of person that would rather hide from what I perceive to be a very crazy world and just be at home with people that know me and understand me.”
The film premiered this week at SXSW and has already garnered some buzz for its fearless, forthright and gut-churning commentary on the destructiveness of the male ego and long-held social stereotypes within Latin culture.
“On the posters for the movie, we wrote, ‘If you don’t criticize your culture, you don’t love your mother.’ You say that to someone and they’re either on-board [with the film] or they’re not,” Rodriguez Lopez said.
SXSW ‘12 Interview: Omar Rodriquez Lopez Talks Spirituality, Storytelling & The Symbolism Of ‘Los Chidos’
One of the more talked about films of this year’s SXSW has been Omar Rodriguez Lopez’s “Los Chidos.” Shocking, violent, funny and made in a style unlike anything else at the festival this year (unlike anything you’ve probably ever seen), the film is divisive, but its differences are what make it interesting and worth talking about (read our review here). Using, but also breaking convention, stereotype and tropes, “Los Chidos” is a crazy fable that explores socially ingrained cultural problems like misogyny, abuse and consumption. Not everyone is going to get it, but Rodriguez Lopez doesn’t seem worried about scaring off those viewers who don’t in order to maintain the clarity of his vision.
The great thing about festivals, is that after you see a movie like “Los Chidos,” you can sit down and ask the director what was going on while the film was made. We got a chance to do just that with Rodriguez Lopez in Austin last week. It’s a wide ranging conversation that spans religion and spirituality to Rodriguez Lopez’s filmmaking inspirations and his creative process, to deconstructing the meaning of some of the symbolism in the movie. There are a few spoilers ahead about some of the more shocking moments in the movie, but we’ll warn you before you get there.
How did you transition from doing music into making films? What inspired you to want to start creatively working in film instead of other channels of expression?
I never understood music as something that could be done as a career. Music is just something that happened. I come from a very musical culture and a musical family. I have no musicians in my family but everyone plays music, everyone plays piano. My mother sings, my father sings. In our culture, dinners usually revolve around writing songs about what’s happening in the room. Actually, I always wanted to make movies. In 1987, my father got his first VCR and camcorder and I started playing with that; that was really where my energy was focused all of the time. That’s what I wanted to be doing. Music is something that just happened that I was fortunate enough to have happen to me as a career. All along the way, I made short films, and then I made my first feature in 2000 and I just thought I’d put myself directly inside of the process, which is the most important thing. I can’t articulate enough how much that is the thing. The end result is just like icing on the cake.
Is 2000 when your filmmaking collective started to come together?
That’s when I started forming it. Very much in the way that a theater group functions or a musical group of like minded people that were interested purely in the process and expression as a form of therapy. The expression as having some sort of medicinal property to it and not just entertainment… Musicians are some of the most awful bunch that you’ll find on this planet, and the drive usually is girls first and foremost, and second to that money, and I just didn’t relate to that at all. Right away it’s like going through a crowd and then you find someone who’s not talking about either of those things, and is talking about the things that are important to you, and you grab onto them. You grab onto them and twenty years later I still know those people.
What was the shoot like? What it was like working for with these people and doing this crazy, wacky film?
It was amazing. It served exactly what it was supposed to serve, which was the addiction to the process and to therapy. Everybody, the crew that didn’t live in Guadalajara, mainly the editor and the cameraman and one of the lighting guys came and stayed at my house. This is where I lived until recently, and the rest of the actors and the rest of the people who were involved were all people that I met while living in Guadalajara and going to see theater and going to see plays and seeing children’s plays. There’s this theater group called Opa, they do anything from kids stories, to issues about the murdered women of Juarez. Immediately I said, “I have to know these people.” I snuck backstage one day and I said “It was beautiful, I want to make a film, would you like to be a part of it?” And once we sat and talked about it and understood where I was coming from and saw the script and realized that, more than anything, it was this social commentary, they were on board, and said anything we can do to help. So they gave me access to all of their facilities where they rehearsed, their own actors, their people, their locations, I really couldn’t have done it without them. The shoot itself is like any independent movie, which is 18 hour days, absolutely insane, but also done in a third world country, which means that the rules are made up as you go along. The hotel that we shot at was in a very dark part of town. Very nice people who run it, but it was a place where people come to do drugs and to have sex and things like this. They gave us full run of the place but we definitely had to respect the ecosystem there and not get in anybody’s business—just stay focused on what we were doing. And humor anyone if they wanted to, if they had questions or wanted to be a part of it somehow.
How did you come to cast Kim [Stodel, who plays the American interloper]?
Kim worked before on the previous film called the “Sentimental Engine Slayer,” and I thought he was interesting, and I needed a character that would represent consumerism and globalism and corporate America. I knew that he would get it and he had enough of a sense of humor about himself and his culture to participate.
Indie Wire Exclusive: Poster For Omar Rodriguez Lopez’s ‘Los Chidos’ Premiering at SXSW
Music and film worlds will be overlapping in more ways than one at this year’s SXSW Film Festival, and we’ve got the exclusive poster debut of The Mars Volta guitarist Omar Rodriguez Lopez’s feature film “Los Chidos,” which will be making its debut in the narrative feature competion. Surprise surprise, this is the fifth film he’s directed, but only the second one to be seen on the fest circuit. His previous effort, “The Sentimental Engine Slayer” played numerous festivals around the world, and was financed by former Red Hot Chili Peppers axeman John Frusciante.
The official synopsis reads: Set amid the noisy outskirts of some unnamed Mexican metropolis, “Los Chidos” tells the story of the Gonzales Family. Proprietors of a tire repair junkyard sandwiched between two busy freeways, the Gonzales clan’s days are spent wallowing in lazy, mindless routine. When a confused American industrialist happens into the shop with a flat tire, the family’s place in the shame-free food chain is called into question. Family secrets begin emerging as love blossoms in Omar Rodriguez Lopez’s satirical dark comedy.
The satirical dark comedy was shot with a micro-budget and micro-crew in a Guadalajaran whorehouse and we’ve heard it bears a bit of an early John Waters-esque edge. It’s got a serious bent to it though, as in his director’s statement, Rodriguez Lopez says the film “served as a meditation that exposes the unfortunate size of our otherwise beautiful and unique culture. Namely, the inherent machismo, misogyny, classism and homophobic values passed down by our grandparents, aunts, uncles, etc.” He adds, “God is a black lesbian” at the end. Rad. We can’t wait to check this one out. SXSW Film runs from March 9-17.
Omar Rodriguez Lopez’s Film - Los Chidos to Compete and Premiere at SXSW 2012
Set amid the noisy outskirts of some unnamed Mexican metropolis, Los Chidos tells the story of the Gonzales Family. Shady proprietors of a tire repair junkyard sandwiched between two busy freeways, the Gonzales clan’s days are spent wallowing in lazy, mindless routine. Barely able to converse without resorting to misogyny and homophobia, the six of them pass the time glued to a decrepit television and stuffing their faces with tacos, preying on the occasional unlucky motorist. When a confused American industrialist happens into the shop with a flat tire, the family’s place in the shame-free food chain is called into question. With his vehicle “out” for repairs indefinitely, a strange scenario unfolds whereby the pale stranger finds himself welcomed into their unpleasant fold. To complicate matters, he soon becomes infatuated with the newlywed bride of the family’s neighbor. As a new love blossoms, dark secrets begin emerging, and both the family and their guest are in for some surprises. Los Chidos is at once both delightfully funny and desperately depraved; a satirical, sociopolitical commentary on the dynamic relationships between exploiter and exploited.
Director: Omar Rodriguez Lopez
Executive Producer: JOHANN SCHEERER
Producer: Omar Rodriguez Lopez
Screenwriter: Omar Rodriguez Lopez
Cinematographer: Michael Rizzi
Editor: Adam Thomson
Additional Credits: Unit Production Manager/1st AD: Laura Vella, Production Coordinator: Ramon Villa, Gaffer: Kristofer May
Principal Cast: Kim Stodel, María De Jesús Canales Ramírez, Manuel Ramos, Cecillia Gutiérrez, Erasmo Rodríguez, Bruno Champiz, Maimuna Achleitner Jiménez
Omar Rodriguez Lopez is an intensely prolific Grammy-winning artist whose genre-defying career has resulted in over 40 albums. In the early 2000s, Rodriguez Lopez began film making. His debut, 2009’s The Sentimental Engine Slayer premiered at International Film Festival Rotterdam, and Tribeca Film Festival, screening at over 20 film festivals worldwide.
US Tour, SXSW, Vive Latino, Coachella, Austin PyschFest & Neon Desert Fest
Omar Rodriguez Lopez Group will be touring this spring with Zechs Marquise. Starting off on March 19th playing at this years SXSW at the Official RLP & Sargent House Show, then a load of US shows and Festivals including: Vive Latino in Mexico City, Coachella, Austin Pyschfest & Neon Desert Music Festival.
OMAR RODRIGUEZ LOPEZ GROUP & ZECHS MARQUISE
Mar 19 - Austin, TX @ Emo’s Annex / SXSW
Mar 21 - Houston, TX @ Fitzgerald’s
Mar 22 - New Orleans, LA @ Parish Room at HOB
Mar 24 - Knoxville, TN @ Bijou Theater Center
Mar 25 - Atlanta, GA @ The Variety Playhouse
Mar 26 - Asheville, NC @ The Orange Peel
Mar 27 - Washington DC @ 9:30 Club
Mar 28 - Philadelphia, PA @ Theater of Living Arts
Mar 29 - New York, NY @ Highline Ballroom
Mar 30 - Cambridge, MA @ The Middle East
Mar 31 - Buffalo, NY @ The Town Ballroom
Apr 01 - Cleveland Heights, OH @ Grog Shop
Apr 02 - Newport, KY @ Southgate House
Apr 03 - Chicago, IL @ Bottom Lounge
Apr 10 - Mexico City, MX @ Vive Latino Festival *
Apr 12 - San Francisco, CA @ Great American Music Hall
Apr 15 - Indio, CA @ COACHELLA / SOLD OUT *
Apr 28 - Dallas, TX @ South Side Music Fest
Apr 29 - Austin, TX @ Austin Psychfest 4
Apr 30 - El Paso, TX @ Neon Desert Music Festival
* = no zechs marquise
Omar Rodriguez Lopez Group will be playing the Sargent House & Rodriguez Lopez Productions official show this year at SXSW on Saturday, March 19th at Emo’s Annex with the following bands. All ages, Doors at 7:15pm, first band on at 7:25pm. Badges & Wristbands come first. Tickets at door are first come first serve.
Omar Rodriguez Lopez Group