Jorge Michel Grau Talks We Are What We Are
We Are What We Are depicts to what extent people will go to survive in the decaying, violent slums of Mexico. Director Jorge Michel Grau knows of this struggle first hand, having grown up in the nation's dark recesses: streets filled with gang violence, drug wars, and inconceivable poverty. His film acts as a visceral metaphor for these grim realities, complete with cannibalism family, a decaying City backdrop, and graphic violence and mutilation. Here, “home” — that is, the family, the tribe, and its rituals — can save you from being swallowed up completely by the Hell surrounding you.
Heather Buckley: How does your film reflect the state of Mexico?
Jorge Michel Grau: What I want to convey is the sense that in current Mexican society, everyone pretty much is left to their own devices to survive because of the social disintegration and the violence, the rampant, brutal violence that is ongoing now as a result of the drug war. But also, in this process of trying to survive, people are creating small tribes, which help them with their process of survival as they create systems of protection for individuals. And so through the metaphor of the tribes, I would also develop the theme of cannibalism in the way that man’s only predator is another human being. In the film, the stronger tribe preys upon the weaker one. So some of the weaker tribes in society, such as the homeless children, prostitutes and gays, these would be the natural prey for the stronger tribes, in this case, this family.
HB: When did you decide that this metaphor would be best expressed using the horror genre?
JMG: First of all, I love horror films, I grew up watching horror films of the 1970’s but, I wanted to make a story about the disintegration of the family and social disintegration as well, and that is pretty much what is developed in the first part of the film. Then there is a sudden turn towards horror, because I thought it would be a context and framework that would work well. And partly because it would reflect this sense of society surrounded by violence. In Mexico, if I am inside my house, I am protected, but the moment I walk out, I’m open to attacks and aggression all around me.
HB: What is your attraction to the genre?
JMG: What I like about horror is its elasticity, its capacity for expansion, so you could include elements from other genres within a horror film, for instance, humor, and in my case I also wanted to add drama. So that is actually what I really like about it, the possibilities of horror, that you can open it up and insert other styles and feelings.
HB: Do you want to continue to make a horror films or do you want to make things outside the genre?
JMG: I don’t know. What I’m really more drawn to is the cinema of violence. Along the lines of Sam Peckinpah, or Miike, where it’s really more the violence rather than the frightening—that’s what draws me to the genre, that with the aesthetic of gore, you can explore the genre of violence.
HB: What is your attraction to violence as an artistic expression?
JMG: I grew up in the neighborhood where the film takes place, and it was a very violent neighborhood, and I lived with that violence all throughout my childhood and teenage years, and I’ve gotten used to that, those levels of violence, I feel very comfortable relating to the people. It’s a type of community where the violence is sort of endemic, or internalized. Parents beat their kids, brothers beat each other up, so violence sort of comes natural to the way that I look at the world, and I make films.
We Are What We Are - Trailer
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