Meet the Filmmaker: Juan Pablo Miquirray – An Island in the Continent
Born in Mexico City in 1977, Juan Pablo Miquirray graduated with honours from the CCC in 2005, one of the top Film Schools in the world according to the Hollywood Reporter (2018). His short film Capillus was presented in several film festivals such as the LAIFF 2006, and even received an honourable mention at the FICG 2006.
We recently had an opportunity to interview Juan about his experiences in making An Island in the Continent, and here is what we learned.
Firstly, can you tell us a bit about the film?
This is a film narrated in a poetic way, that encourage us to discover a barely explored territory from Mexico, and that confronts us with the question: Are we going to be able to live in harmony with nature? Don’t wait for any answers, this is a documentary about questions and feelings.
What was your biggest inspiration to make this film/How did you get involved or attached to the project?
Some years ago I camped at the canyons of the Sierra de San Francisco in Baja California Sur at New Years Eve. I could feel the energy of the nature and the strength from the ancient rock art surrounding me. These images and experiences followed me for years. Without a doubt, the nature, the land and the mythology of the ancient inhabitants of the “Baja California Peninsula” who learned to venerate nature in order to survive, were my biggest inspiration.
As a filmmaker there are many ups and downs in the process, what was your absolute favourite and/or funniest part of making/producing this film?
The first line producer quit the project in the middle of the “sierra” when she discovered there were no bathrooms.
One of the activists I interviewed gave me his mother’s phone number in case he was kidnapped or even killed for denouncing the irregularities of the tourist complex they were building.
What does a film festival like Byron Bay Film Festival mean to you and your work?
I believe that the territory of Baja California in Mexico is connected in an emotional and magical way to Byron Bay – it’s not a coincidence that this film it’s going to be presented here. BBFF represents one of the nodes of a big net of these places with wonderful stories and strong nature, that in some ways are like an island even if they are part of a continent. That’s what makes this transcendental.
Byron Bay Film Festival showcases an array of entertaining, inspiring and thought-provoking films. Do you feel that your film helps people ‘Dream With Their Eyes Open’? And if so how?
I believe so, because the documentary shows the inside of the territory, to discover the different dimensions that inhabit it. When you are capable of peeking into it, people are able to “Dream with Their Eyes Open”. In fact, the movie is designed like a fractal and emotional trip.
What is the best piece of advice you can give to future independent filmmakers?
Firstly, most of the time making a documentary, or any kind of movie, it’s about finding the balance between the rush to start making your film, and the calm to solidly research your theme.
Secondly, financing a movie is very hard, sometimes you have to tell people what they want to hear, just to obtain money. Don’t be sorry about it.
What was the most challenging part of the filmmaking process?
For me, editing is the most challenging part, because it’s when you discover a new film, one for which you aren’t necessarily prepared.
If some or all of the team is coming to the festival at Byron Bay. Who is coming and what are you looking forward to?
The executive producer. He shared the vision of the movie with me. Therefore, it is important that someone who knows the film from the inside and who believes in it, can live the experience and share their point of view on the financing of a film.
Any upcoming projects for you, your team or key creatives involved in your film?
I’m looking for financing for a documentary about Mapuches and their fight to recover their native lands in South America. I already shot a teaser.
What drives you as a filmmaker?
I’m encouraged to share with others, to connect human beings with other human beings and with causes that make us better beings.
Anything interesting or unique about the filmmaking process for this film, any hiccups along the way, any happy coincidences that changed the films direction?
At the beginning, my intention had nothing to do with the environmental denouncement, but it was during the last period of the investigation and upon arriving at the place that people began to talk about the problems they were having to fight against the nature predators. The documentary would never have been the same without this unexpected turn.
Is anything else you would like to share?
Just to quote Baba Dioum, the Senegalese conservationist: “In the end, we will conserve only what we love; we will love only what we understand and we will understand only what we are taught.”