Guillermo del Toro's Advice to Young Filmmakers: Do Whatever the F*ck You Want
Ryan Gosling may have had a literal mic-dropping moment during a Q&A session Saturday at the South by Southwest Film Festival in Austin, Texas, but it was interviewer Guillermo del Toro who earned the biggest response from the audience with his devil-may-care approach to life and work.
Del Toro interviewed Gosling about his directorial debut, Lost River, which perhaps del Toro alone enjoyed based on the film’s response at Cannes last year. In between banter, including several “Hey Girl” meme references that led to Gosling saying the line (and then dropping the mic in an “I give up” manner), del Toro’s praise for his friend and fellow Disneyland adventurer’s “fairy-tale format” take on modern-day Detroit was sincere. He called it not only a “great movie,” but an “even more extraordinary first movie,” one that embodies Gosling as a person. “It is you,” del Toro said. “And that’s really the highest praise I can give you.”
Encouragement turned out to be the unexpected theme of the session, as the two took questions from attendees.
“As a Chicano filmmaker,” one young filmmaker asked del Toro, “I just want to ask you, with two years out of the 80-something years [of the] Oscars, two Mexican filmmakers win best film director. What is your advice and input on the future of Mexican cinema, and how it’s going to influence the rest of the world and the United States especially?”
Del Toro’s response was perfect:
“The world has changed a lot from the time we started. When we started in the late ’90s…when [my DP Guillermo Navarro] was looking for representation — I’m not making this up — one of the most powerful agents of cinematographers said, ‘Why do I need a Mexican? I already have a gardener.’ I found my share of that. It’s very hard to explain [to] anyone from America the relations of Mexicans and immigration. Every time I go through I get very nervous. And now I’m an honorary Texan, so fuck it.
But the reality is, I think, that we can look at where we’re from and our origins, and use them as a weight to put us down, or we can use it as a source of pride to elevate us. Our origins are a passport to travel the world. They are not a thing that ties us. We have, through the years in Mexican cinema, many many many guys winning Cannes, winning Venice, winning so many different prizes and conquering markets that are so different and so difficult. If I was a young filmmaker growing up [now], [I’d] have different models. I can say, I can make a multi-million dollar sci-fi epic adventure, or I can do an intimate portrait of a Chicano family inside one home.
So I’d say — use who you are. It’s not only about [being] Chicano — it’s about identity, gender, everything. Use what you are always as a source of pride, and wear it as a giant fuck you to the world when they tell you that you cannot do something. Because I think that the one discrimination that is the most insidious is the one we apply to ourselves.
I was a kid growing up in Mexico, dreaming about making movies about monsters and robots and fairies — about whatever I wanted — and I did not follow a career that was that trackable for a Mexican filmmaker. And so there’s people who used to ask me, ‘What is Mexican about your movies?’ And I go, ‘Me.’ So you know. If fucking [Bernardo] Bertolucci can do The Last Emperor and Milos Forman can do the story of Larry Flynt, I can do whatever the fuck I want.”
That goes for you, too, Baby Goose. You be you.
Sarah Carlson is Television Editor for Pajiba. You can find her on Twitter.