Set Visit Recap: CULTURE SHOCK Aims to Wake You the F*** Up

Culture shock is an experience a person may have when one moves to a cultural environment which is different from one’s own; it is also the personal disorientation a person may feel when experiencing an unfamiliar way of life due to immigration or a visit to a new country, a move between social environments, or simply transition to another type of life. One of the most common causes of culture shock involves individuals in a foreign environment. Culture shock can be described as consisting of at least one of four distinct phases: honeymoon, negotiation, adjustment, and adaptation. (Source)

Culture Shock is also the 10th installment of Hulu & Blumhouse’s Into the Dark, a monthly series of feature films, each with a holiday theme. Culture Shock hits the streaming powerhouse this Thursday, July 4th and, obviously, the theme is Independence Day.

Related Article: Interview: Gigi Saul Guerrero Wraps For Blumhouse’s INTO THE DARK

So it might seem strange, at first, to learn that Culture Shock is directed by Mexican-born, Canadian filmmaker Gigi Saul Guerrero. Then again, someone who truly understands life on both of America’s major borders is perhaps uniquely qualified to offer an objective, artistic examination of our current socio-political climate–especially in the south.

Gigi Saul Guerrero

In 2010, during the height of the “Minute Men” movement (when a group of self-proclaimed vigilantes took it upon themselves to patrol remote corners of America’s border with Mexico), the film Undocumented presented a horrifying look at this disturbing and misguided mindset. Now, as migrants are coming to the US in record number, illegally, resulting in overcrowded detention centers, Culture Shock aims to wake us all the fuck up!

As politicians and their constituencies pontificate about what should or shouldn’t be done about the situation, Guerrero’s film is both a warning and an ugly mirror. It’s never been more timely, which is why everyone I spoke to during my set visit (Guerrero and actors Martha Higareda, Richard Cabral, and Shawn Ashmore) all used the word “important” (repeatedly) when discussing Culture Shock.

There are two different worlds on display in Culture Shock: Harsh reality and the American Dream incarnate. The sets I visited were part of the darker world. It was a place of claustrophobic corridors and grimy, make-shift medical banks one might expect to see on an active battlefield–or the bowels of hell.

Horror icon Barbara Crampton in Culture Shock

The clapboard snaps and someone yells “Action”, but there is no quiet on this set. As Higareda performs an emotionally grueling scene with minimal dialog, Guerrero is literally screaming: “Come on Martha! Dig deep! Remember how hurt you are, how much you hate him! Now’s your moment for revenge, Martha! Do it! Do it! Do it!”

At least that’s what I imagine Guerrero is saying; her passionate and equally urgent directions are delivered in Spanish.

“I told Blumhouse that I was going to give them a true, authentic piece of Mexican culture–that this was really important to me,” Guerrero explains and, obviously, this isn’t lip-service. The majority of the actors and crew are Mexican-American, hence Spanish being the language of choice on set. Now I was experiencing mild culture shock; I’ve been on a number of sets, but never one where business was being done in a foreign tongue.

When I asked Ashmore, a white man, how it felt to be a minority on the set of a feature film in Hollywood, he paused before responding, “I hadn’t really noticed”–and bless his fucking heart. This could be proof of permanent change, when a young actor sees a culturally diverse production as completely normal. Hopefully, his entire generation will be as color-blind and artistically devoted when it comes to quality filmmaking. Because while it’s worth noting that Guerrero is a woman and an immigrant in an industry dominated by white men, the goal is to create a world where diversity is commonplace.

Responses to festival screenings of Culture Shock have been tremendous, meaning Guerrero is well on her way to super-stardom. As someone who’s followed her and her production company, Luchagore, for years, I know there’s plenty more glorious gore and socially relevant horror in the tank. She’s smart as a whip with a wicked mind for arresting and engrossing cinema.

Check out the synopsis and trailer for Culture Shock below.

This thriller follows a young Mexican woman in pursuit of the American Dream, who crosses illegally into the United States, only to find herself in an American nightmare.

Guerrero directs Culture Shock from a screenplay she developed with James Benson and Efrén Hernández.

Are you a fan of Hulu’s Into the Dark series of horror movies? Are you excited to check out Culture Shock on Hulu beginning July 4th? Let us know in the comments below or on Facebook, Twitter, or Instagram! You can also carry on the convo with me personally on Twitter @josh_millican.



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