Meet Tin Dirdamal – Director of Death in Arizona

opening2014Last weekend I was in Mexico City for the official launch of the 2014 Ambulante documentary tour.  The roving film festival has an insanely impressive 35 venues through out most of the burroughs in El Districto Federal.   It wanders around in Mexico City one more week until the 13th when the tour hits the road to its next stop in Guerrero.   The tour will conclude May 4 in the magical land of Oaxaca and by then it will have traveled to 12 different states throughout Mexico presenting its diverse, international lineup of the latest documentary cinema.

Ambulante has 12 different programming sections including the popular music section, Sonidero, Dictator’s cut, devoted to human rights & freedom of speech,  and Injerto, the art & cinema experimental section.  Ambulante’s viscus however is Pulsos, where you’ll find the most recent, most original voices of the robust Mexican non fiction narrative.  It is here that the world premiere of Death in Arizona, a futuristic documentary, as described by the director, Tin Dirdamal is being presented.

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Still6 copyI first met Tin at the Los Angeles Latino International Film Festival with his opera prima, DeNadie which won the Audience Award at the 2006 Sundance Film Festival.  He is by far one of the most curious, unpretentious, inspired minds I’ve ever met.  We took a jaunt up to Coyoacan plaza, an ancient mecca of artisan vendors and merchants, for coffee at my favorite El Jarocho, tamales, and found a relatively quiet garden to have a conversation.

DeathArizona1The story is quite personal, about a love lost and a self found, to say it broadly.  Without giving away too much, the love in the film is also the producer and co-director Christina Haglund.  I asked Tin about his creative process, his favorite Jodorowsky film, his experience at Sundance, and his philosophy on filmmaking and well, life.  Check out our conversation and then the trailer to his film.   He is truly a one-of-a-kind, thought-provoking, and perhaps the most brilliantly unassuming human being I’m happy to know.  Now you meet him.

Here is a trailer of the film – that for me resonates as a journey culminating towards a flickering light and illumination at the end of a tunnel of heartbreaking solitude.  The intimate, moody, futuristic and transcendent film, Death in Arizona.

MEXICAN DOCUMENTARY FOR SOCIAL CHANGE – SPOTLIGHT: DE PANZAZO!

De Panzazo! is a high profile social activist documentary that sounds the alarm on the failing public education system in Mexico and therein demands an urgent call to action from its viewers. Directed by Juan Carlos Rulfo (En El Hoyo, Los Que Se Quedan), co-directed by prominent journalist Carlos Loret De Mola, and produced by Daniela Alatorre (El General) the film is opening in theatres in Mexico on February 24.   With a distribution release strategy in collaboration with social education initiative group, Mexicanos Primero and the biggest theatre chain in Mexico,Cinépolis, the film is hotly anticipated and bound to move and affect change from the most fundamental level – improving national education.
De Panzanzo! follows a determined but genteel Loret De Mola on a mission to find and clarify missing, startling inaccessible, public school statistics like the number of certified teachers in the country.  Along with his very direct interviews with several top officials including the controversial head of the nation’s teacher’s union, Elba Esther Gordillo, who in one of the more tickling moments in the film promises in a scout’s honor type handshake to evaluate the performance of teachers, the film reveals gaping cracks in the system, chief among them, the staggering percentage of unqualified teachers, the challenge of operating decentralized schools in outward rural communities, and a flagrant mismanagement of school funding and resources. 
A multi-pronged overview and a pressing sense of advocacy dominates the film as it does not shy away from taking to task school and government administrators, as well as parents and students.  As imploring as the film’s hard stance is however, it would not be as successful in eliciting the sentiment it does, required to mobilize hearts into action, if it weren’t for Rulfo’s singular cinematic brand of being able to visually imbue and capture the soul of Mexico through the bright-eyed spirit of young school children who dream against heavy odds of becoming doctors and engineers.
I don’t think there is an applicable translation, but the term De Panzazo might otherwise be understood by another phrase in English; “Barely hanging on by a thin thread” which in the film, refers to the critical precipice the country dangles from, and which is vividly rendered by the numerous and entertaining graphs showing Mexico standing near the bottom, if not the very bottom of every international education standing list.
Whether the film will affect change is up to the public.  The film and the interactive website offers numerous and viable opportunities to engage.  But the big test is how well it plays in theaters.  Considering the unprecedented box office success this past year of Presunto Culpable, a Mexican documentary that exposed the grossly unjust judicial system via the case of a wrongfully incarcerated young man, it hopefully indicates there is not only a need but a desire of Mexican society to embrace social issue documentaries, and a population who is ready to engage in what the organization Mexicanos Primeros have positively coined; Urgent Mission, Historic Opportunity.
Like it on Facebook to keep track of future U.S. screenings
Check out the interactive website and trailer here
Follow it on Twitter here
#DePanzazo