Exclusive Interview: Musician/Filmmaker Omar Rodriguez-Lopez Discusses Symbolism, Fairy Tales and More for Los Chidos
Omar Rodriguez-Lopez has been making waves in the music world with the progressive stylings of his band The Mars Volta since back in 2001, and now his latest film, Los Chidos, is doing the same in the film festival world after wildly dividing audiences during its recent SXSW premiere.
Los Chidos is Rodriguez-Lopez’s violently bizarre spin on modern telenovelas that shocked many with its inclusion of thematic material including incest, cannibalism, jars filled with severed penises and a graphic scene involving a meal of feces. And for those who have experienced it, there’s one thing you cannot deny- whether you love it or hate it, Rodriguez-Lopez successfully delivers a bold and provocative satire with his latest efforts that is unlike anything you’ve ever seen before.
Recently Dread Central had the opportunity to chat with the thought-provoking filmmaker about Los Chidos and heard more about how his family and the fairy tales he grew up on inspired his satirical work. Rodriguez-Lopez also discussed his thoughts on the symbolism in his film and how he prefers to leave labels aside when it comes to his creative outlets.
Read on for our in-depth interview with the Los Chidos helmer below, and look for more news on where you can check out the flick for yourself coming soon.
Dread Central: I’d love to start off by hearing a little bit about what inspired Los Chidos and the approach that you took while creating the story.
Omar Rodriguez-Lopez: The biggest inspiration would be my mother and the second to her my father; but most definitely my mother and the way she raised me and the idea of returning the woman to a rightful place in the holy trinity. Something parallel to that was one of my favorite quotes from Einstein, which he says if you want your children to be smart, read them fairy tales; and if you want them to be smarter, read them more fairy tales.
Those two things really served as a big push for when I was writing the film and the very first line of the film, which unfortunately didn’t make it into the film but I put it onto the poster, which is, if you don’t criticize your culture, you don’t love your mother.
So those three things together formed the one trinity and the sort of jumping off point to disregard any other voices.
Dread Central: So this is your second feature then?
Omar Rodriguez-Lopez: Well, it is the second one that I’ve put out into public forum.
Dread Central: Well, after that first filmmaking experience, what is it that you wanted to do with Los Chidos that was different than your first time? And how did you want to challenge yourself as a storyteller to tell something new and different that fans haven’t seen before?
Omar Rodriguez-Lopez: Well, the main thing is that I wanted to do something that served as a therapy for me and my friends to be conscious of and examine the vernacular which we use. And I think there is something really important that is overlooked, especially by the youth culture, in the words that we are using – where they come from exactly and what they mean – and really get to the bottom of it and understand that most of it comes from an exploitative culture and that by continuing the cycle and using them without knowing what they are meaning, we are doing exactly what our exploitators set out to do. And that is like setting a pattern that stays there throughout infinity.
And so for me that was the main thing, and that’s why there is what people refer to as strong scenes or graphic scenes; sure that’s one aspect of it, but really those are all metaphors or, again, fairy tales. Latin culture in general has a very deep love for metaphor, and so therefore the bear is not the bear, the spider is not the spider, the blood is not blood and the knife is not the knife.
So that was what I set out to do – to try to play with those things as well as some that might be right on the nose for audiences, too. Los Chidos isn’t for everyone- I’m okay with that. I just want to open up a discussion about these ideas and explore why both sides of the dialogue exist.
Dread Central: We’re similar ages, I think, and it’s definitely interesting listening to you talk about fairy tales and traditions, which is something that was integral to my childhood as well. I see the newer generation now as one where I don’t feel that they are getting that same kind of experience; I don’t think they appreciate that there are hundreds and hundreds of years of stories out there they haven’t ever heard of.
Omar Rodriguez-Lopez: Yes, they couldn’t possibly; I mean, how could they? The culture that has been created for them is one of mass consumption, of this homogenous blob of global consumerism so you know everything has just become what used to be an art form – from the guy who made shoes to film to foods or whatever else has just become this ‘get as many out as quickly as possible before the trend goes away’ approach. Then, the challenge is to figure out what the new trend is, and therefore, our culture has become like reality TV and in general society is losing its appreciation for not only the metaphor but the myth at large.
Another Einstein quote and Joseph Campbell quote goes something like ‘the society that loses its myth is a crumbling society.’ And to me that is one of the first tell-tale signs of the fall of an empire, and that’s sort of where we’re at, you know?
Dread Central: It seems to me that you have an incredible grasp on storytelling and are definitely willing to take chances with your work; when you’re watching movies or reading books, what are the stories that speak to you? What is it that resonates with you as somebody who is a creative person and works in the creative arts?
Omar Rodriguez-Lopez: Well, my problem is that I like everything and that I try to find the beauty in everything. See, my mother likes to watch Lifetime Movie Network, and they’re really cheaply made films, but I’d rather find something nice about it – like a character that I like or a story that I like rather than to say ‘oh what a shitty…’ because then I’m not enjoying with her.
Being that I am lucky enough to create things for a living, I understand the immense amount of work that goes into it; I mean, it’s not that what we do is hard; it’s just the amount of work that goes into it. What’s hard is to design a building, to be a doctor – those things are hard. So I try to look for the good in things, and by doing that, you can see that the world is moving forward no matter how bleak it might seem sometimes.
Dread Central: Now that you have SXSW behind you, where does Los Chidos go from here? Do you have any other festivals lined up?
Omar Rodriguez-Lopez: I think so because that’s not really my department; the only reason why my films are in festivals is because my editor, Adam Thompson, and some of my other crew guys were dedicated to say, ‘Hey we respect your philosophy, but people should see these movies’ so they got submitted.
Like I said, my first three movies I showed to no one, and so sharing this story is a little different. This is different than those, though; those I made for my friends and myself, and this one I felt was a little broader and was ready to be shared.
Dread Central: Do you think you will release those down the line, or are those just for you?
Omar Rodriguez-Lopez: I don’t know; those would be nice to have just for me because being in a film festival or putting out a record is like a funeral. On one hand, you’re very happy to see it go on because you’re reminded that it was never yours and that it belongs to everybody; but on the other hand, as a human being it’s hard to let go and say, ‘oh yeah, it’s not just mine.’ So it’s that mixture, and it’s very much like a funeral – that’s the closest thing I can compare it to; it’s definitely a death.
Dread Central: There are a lot of preconceived notions out there that musicians can’t be directors or directors can’t be singers, and for me that’s always such a problem because if you’re creative, you’re creative. People don’t always respond well when people make those kinds of transitions in the industry. Is that anything you were conscientious of when you began transitioning into the film world?
Omar Rodriguez-Lopez: Well, lucky for me I have never called myself a musician because I am not a musician; I have no formal training in music, and I have absolutely no investments in band culture. I come from a very musical family, and music is a big part of my culture, but so is food, so is love, so is metaphor, so is sex – so are all these things. I’ve never called myself a director. I mean, I love to cook, but I don’t call myself a chef so by ‘being nothing’ I am allowed to be everything.
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