Writer and Director Krisstian de Lara gets invited as a special guest to El Podcast de la Frontera, a Spanish speaking podcast streaming live every week on Facebook from the border of El Paso, Texas and Juarez, Mexico. The podcast touches on various topics such as how to specialize in motion pictures, film opportunities and incentives, his upcoming second and third feature films, Rift City and Hanker, their controversial nature, Oscar nominated films, and much more.
Podcast host, Edgar Rodriguez, kicks off the livestream by asking Krisstian to introduce himself and tell audiences what can people study to do what he’s doing in which Krisstian replies that filmmaking is very broad and that there’s various branches to study from. De Lara emphasizes that he studied a Bachelor of Arts in Communication at The University of Texas at El Paso (UTEP) to get an insight of every aspect of multimedia productions and later on learned screenwriting and film production at the University of Miami with a Master’s Degree in Motion Pictures Production. Rodriguez then asks how much time has he invested in his studies and Krisstian charismatically replies, “A lifetime.” They both laugh. “Obviously not, but officially going to school and waking up early.” Edgar rebuttals as they both add up and conclude around six years to achieve a bachelors and master’s degree.
Edgar continues the conversation by asking Krisstian how are opportunities here at the border market to invest and create cinema. Krisstian replies,
“It could be better as always but if someone is focused on making films it doesn’t matter which city you’re in, I think you can make it.” Krisstian de Lara
“Therefore, let’s say here in Juarez or El Paso, there’s not a lot of resources but many people,” Krisstian says as he holds his phone in front of him, “are planning to shoot films through their cellphones. So, you can accomplish anything you want and you are your own limit. Because you can even sit yourself in front of a computer and learn through YouTube how to make visual effects which have been made and distributed. Thus, there’s really no limit to your creativity and what you can accomplish.”
Krisstian moves on to explain how you can adjust within the resources that you have to make a film, just like he did when filming his second directoral feature film, Rift City, “I affiliate myself with Channel 44 and they loved the project and supported me. Consequently, we began filming and filmed in places you wouldn’t even believe, where it says, ‘Read the bible.'” De Lara refers to a particular area near city limits in Ciudad Juarez known by its high levels of poverty and crime adjacent to a mountain with large white painted letters that read, “Ciudad Juarez, the bible is the truth, read it.” Rodriguez affirms, “very difficult places.” Krisstian confirms, “Difficult but up to a certain point dangerous because even neighbors would say, ‘Why are you guys filming here with that camera that looks super expensive? You guys can get mugged.’ Nonetheless, we said, this is what the story entails we won’t stop because the city is in shambles.” Krisstian sums up, “I wrote this film also in mind that we could film it for a low cost and a short period of time.”
Edgar confesses that before going live they were talking about controversial topics in de Lara’s films such as sex, prostitution, and violence and how current society reflects that in the arts. Edgar asks if directors feel the need to reflect what society is going through. Krisstian responds, “I can speak for myself. I will always talk about experiences I’ve been through.” Krisstian elaborates how filmmakers enjoy to showcase extraordinary situations that were inspired by something at some point of a particular moment or event, “In film, many times it gets exploited to certain extreme to see what would happen, or to draw attention, or like you said, sexually, up to what limits does our brain have to cope with this and if something like this would happen, what would we do if we were in their shoes.” Krisstian dissects the idea,
“Up to a certain degree we have the option to reflect how society is but at the same time, explore the human being, which is what cinema is. Celebrate humanity and how complex we are, how we progress and how we transform ourselves through our experiences. I believe is the most beautiful thing we can see on film and that’s why we are so fascinated watching it happen.” Krisstian de Lara
The conversation proceeds speaking about the golden age of cinema in Mexico and if the government should be responsible for funding such projects. Krisstian advocates for film incentives in independent filmmaking and how this has helped him reach financing for his upcoming third feature film, Hanker, “El Paso Museum of Cultural Arts Department funded a screenplay I wrote in less than 30 days—I was against time with their deadline—they read it and loved it. It’s called Hanker, it’s in English and starts off in New York and later moves to El Paso. They funded this project and I’m super grateful they did because now I have the resources to execute the project. However, the pandemic happened and that program disappeared. They told me, as long as you promise to us you will give us a feature film, here’s the funding. Now imagine, I had the opportunity to make it but other filmmakers here at the border, their wings got cut short to tell other great stories… and others not so great but they get made.” They laugh.
The podcast host then encourages the audience to follow Krisstian’s social networks to keep up with his controversial films and confesses he gets a bit scared by them too, “You’re speaking about Hanker?” Krisstian asks as Edgar confirms. “Just so the audience know”—de Lara begins to describe the film when Edgar quickly interjects—”It’s because I don’t like to spoil movies.” “No, no, this is just the set up,” Krisstian reassures. “It’s about a young guy whose bakery show gets cancelled in New York and comes back to the border and opens up his own bakery shop. Here, is where he faces his past and bumps into people that he believes—since he made it big in New York—he might be getting the respect he deserves because he worked for it. However, he faces another reality.” Krisstian explained. De Lara highlights how the character’s ex-boyfriend doesn’t validate his career versus a fan who he recently met does but later attempts to sexually abuse him. Krisstian states how the film explores that fine line between rape and consent and finding validation within yourself.
Rodriguez highlights the responsibility of proving a voice and an opportunity to everyone when producing a project. When asked if he’s not afraid of retaliation or if he has complete freedom over what he creates, de Lara states, “If we don’t throw ourselves to the rodeo, we ain’t never gonna win.” He continues, “I’m not a big fan of saying, ‘Yeah, that’s very taboo, let’s do that sexually—’ regarding films, not personally.” Edgar and Krisstian laugh uncontrollably but Krisstian attempts to clarify,
“I’m not that kind that says let’s do that just to shock, no. I do it because there’s a transformation, a lesson to be learned.”Krisstian de Lara
De Lara then references Hanker, to reiterate it wasn’t created for shock value, “The story doesn’t revolve around the sexually of the protagonist but how can we find validation within the things that we do despite other people not giving it us.” Krisstian concludes, “And speaking of the Oscars, we don’t really need to win an Oscar, despite the fact it could help but meaning we don’t need to win something to feel validated in the arts or in anything that we do for that matter.”
The livestream proceeds with Edgar underlining how popular movies in theaters such as Spider-Man: No Way Home isn’t highly praised by the Academy while others are, “For example, movies like Dune that no one watched, had more nominations, even for Best Picture.” “That ‘no one watched,’ you’re so mean!” Krisstian says as he bumps his fist against Edgar’s arm. “No but it’s true […] Compared to Spider-Man, it’s trash” Edgar says as Krisstian and the studio crew laugh loudly. Krisstian argues, “Don’t be saying that because Marvel is gonna watch my stories and say, ‘Hey, we’re not hiring him because he’s saying Spider-Man movies are trash.’ No, c’mon.” Everyone laughs in the studio.
Edgar then points out a phrase Krisstian said off-camera as he confirms, “I’m glad you also see it because many people don’t see it. I’ve enter very heated conversations because they see no difference or believe is the same thing […] A film is a type of—like you said—is not just a two hour experience, or 80 minutes, you take it home, you talk about it with your family, your friends, regarding the topic because it stays with you and it can even change your life, or your way of thinking. Either you want it or not, we are changing society in a certain way, hopefully in a positive manner or to different ways of thinking. And a movie, different from a film, are superhero movies that they continue to make to generate money and it will always be good versus evil, always executed the same way.” However, Krisstian insists to give credit where credit’s due because movies have perfected storylines and higher their stakes by entering controversial dilemas such as Thanos in Avengers: Endgame about overpopulation and it’s correlation to human suffering on Earth.
Changing gears, Edgar talks about the Oscar nominated films and their recommendations such as Don’t Look Up and briefly dissect how well the film elaborates on financial power, politics, and science denial in today’s society. Subsequently, Rodriguez asks de Lara what genre would he be more inclined to do in which he replies drama since he enjoys stories based in reality plus, comedy been extremely difficult to execute in writing and on camera. They briefly speak about Will Smith’s nomination for Best Actor in King Richard, and other films such as Parallel Mothers, Dune and Coda.
Thereafter, the podcast host asks de Lara to explain the reason why is more difficult for audiences to watch complicated storylines found in films than in movies, “I believe because we have a very hectic life and we want to disconnect ourselves from the world—for a few hours—and they watch it for that reason to be entertain for a bit and forget about their reality. Up to a certain point, films can also do that but since they leave you marked, you not only have to live with your reality but the reality the film presents to you as well.” Krisstian chuckles.
Rodriguez references Parasite, the first non-English language film to win the Academy Award for Best Picture that that touches on the topics of class and society in a comedic way. Krisstian underlines the exciting times we are living in for a foreign film to be accepted and watched despite culture and language barriers that may turn off the average viewer. Krisstian states,
“We’ve come to a middle point where we realize we are not that different.” Krisstian de Lara
Edgar agrees with the fact that people all over the world share the same issues and ultimately, seek happiness. Krisstian nods, “Let me tell you an anecdote.” Krisstian then narrates when he assisted a pre-screening of Eugenio Derbez’ Instructions Not Included in Miami, “It was a full show, and there was an African-American family sitting in front of us and the film started and they realized it had subtitles because it was in Spanish. They were like, ‘No it’s in Spanish, what do we do? Do we leave? We have to read.’ […] The culture of reading subtitles is pretty much non-existent in the states. Here, [in borderland] is more common to read subtitles and listen to the original sound. They decided to stay and watched the full movie and at the end they were crying like everyone else.” Krisstian highlights how cinema brakes even language barriers.
Next, Rodriguez sets to ask a challenging question regarding using cinema to propagate political ideologies and Krisstian’s thoughts about it,
“One thing is that I don’t like them and another, that they make them, but I think it should be prohibited because we are not celebrating what really should be the heart of cinema, which is to celebrate humanity. […] These projects get made and like many get forgotten and hopefully they stay there.” Krisstian de Lara
Krisstian discusses how many answers are available at our fingertips and through the use of the internet, we can search for answers and use our best judgement to be on the right side of history.
During the last minutes of the podcast, the conversation dives into the extreme ideals of right and wrong in which Krisstian points out how Japanese filmmaker, Hayao Miyazaki, tries to depict his characters neither unexceptionally evil nor good; a concept desperately needed more often in cinema. Krisstian states that life is not as black and white as we have grown accustomed seeing on the big screen and reality lies more on a grey area. Hence, Krisstian poses a current dilema, would not getting involved in Russia’s invasion over Ukraine makes us bad guys despite the fact being against it and potentially our involvement might create a bigger war and nuclear weapons? A depiction that Krisstian recognizes as difficult from a moral point of view.
Lastly, Edgar concludes the podcast by thanking Krisstian de Lara for stopping by and invites everyone to support independent filmmaking by following Krisstian on his social networks. Edgar acknowledges he enjoyed the conversation and hopes to see him again in future episodes of El Podcast de La Frontera to speak about cinema and upcoming film premieres he might have at the border.
Watch the full interview above or click here to watch on YouTube.
Watch Krisstian de Lara’s Film Collection exclusively over at Patreon or watch them On Demand here.