Tres (Tr3s) Marias Interview – Francisco González Valenzuela

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    With more and more movies being made in Costa Rica, we are now seeing projects that go beyond the fervent nationalism that has been the norm for local productions. Movies are being made with international audiences in mind and instead of appealing specifically to the Costa Rican audience, some filmmakers are setting their eyes on going beyond the confines of the San Jose Valley.

    One of them is Francisco González Valenzuela, a Chilean director who has been living in Costa Rica for several years and is the mastermind behind “Tr3s Marías”, a gritty social drama that deals with current topics. This labor of love has been six years in the making and will provide Costa Rican audiences with an experience unlike anything they’ve seen in local filmmaking.

    The Costa Rica News’ film critic Jose Solís sat with Francisco and the movie’s executive producers – Alexander Sosa and Rita Azar – for an exclusive interview.

    Jose: First of all thank you all for having us. Can you please talk about how the project was born?

    Francisco: The project was born in 2006, almost by chance. I said that making short films wasn’t profitable, but that they were efficient to help develop a story. told actor Pablo Morales (who also appears in “Tr3s Marías”) that what we should do is make three short films, paste them together and develop a movie. So he dared me to do it.

    Jose: So the movie is essentially conformed of three different plots?

    Francisco: Yes, but how to create three stories that interconnect? Meaning that they all have conflicts, events and decisions in common. This is how we came up with the idea of “fate doesn’t exist, each decision matters”. Watching the movie you realize that nothing comes to happen by chance, every action owes itself to a decision taken in the past.

    Jose: How did this idea become a movie then?

    Francisco: I started working on a screenplay that was economic, because we didn’t have a big budget, so we set the story at night because that meant we could save in transportation costs, crew and food. Our shooting schedule therefore started at 6PM and finished at 1AM, always at a bar (laughs) This project became like a hobby to all of us, we wanted to make it regardless of effort, so we recruited people who loved the project, since we didn’t have enough money.

    Jose: Did you get any help from sponsors or any funding?

    Francisco: We never really tried to find cash funds for the production, instead we asked for supplies. Asking for money isn’t efficient – you can get stuck in bureaucratic processes that go on for years –  instead we went to companies like Bimbo and Coca-Cola and asked them for food.

    Jose: How have audiences reacted in test screenings?

    Francisco: We screened the movie for university students who seemed surprised, because no other national production had focused on showing social themes in fiction. [After the movie ended] they asked me what genre did the movie belong to, I said neorrealism, but instead of focusing on post war stories, like they had in Italy, we used three women to conform a single story.

    Alexander: [The film’s production company] Oveja Negra Productions is trying to introduce a new type of Costa Rican movie. Regular movies in the country are made just for entertainment, we want to deal with social issues while entertaining the audience. Let’s question the system, let’s observe social injustice, but let’s have fun too.

    Francisco: All of the characters in the movie are recognizable, but they are not stereotypical. Our film shows prostitutes but doesn’t judge them, instead it observes their surroundings to make us wonder how they ended up doing what they do. Life for people in lower classes is cyclical, these people go to bed with their problems and wake up not having solved them.

    Jose: In a way it seems like local audiences prefer to think there’s nothing wrong with the system, so how has the media reacted with your proposal of a story that deals with social issues?

    Francisco: Our movie isn’t light, we are showing what people live through day after day. We have no stereotypes, all of our characters are real. From the casting process we asked actors to be themselves,  we wanted the actors to get to know the character, instead of constructing stereotypes. all the actors created a past, present and future for the characters. the screenplay offered them guidelines, we let the actors improvise. this made the movie rich cause it makes viewers feel like the cameras was invited, we are not intruding in the situations.

    Jose: What were some of your cinematic references when you made “Tr3s Marías”?

    Francisco: I love Latin American cinema, so there are many visual references to 70s Latin films. All movie directors have a different vision, mine is much more critical, I have no problem looking in the mirror and acknowledging my flaws. So I wanted to transmit this in the movie as well.

    Rita: Some other references included “Amores Perros”, Woody Allen movies and Pedro Almodóvar.

    Francisco: Almodóvar is too kitsch for my taste.

    Alex: I’m sure Almodóvar wont like your movies either.


    Francisco: I also borrowed popular elements from Mexican and Chilean movies.I did not “get” Cantinflas until I lived in Mexico, so I understand Costa Rican references better now after living here. I think our movie has a little bit of everything, each person who worked with us added something very personal to the movie.

    Jose: Now let’s talk about the aesthetics in the movie and the advertising campaign. Who is this movie addressing?

    Francisco: Everyone! But we also want to attract people who don’t go to the movies. Especially people who don’t see Costa Rican movies. The only way the movie industry will work here is if people come see the movies. Let’s show people that we can make movies with a superb quality.

    Movies like “Gestación”, and “El Regreso” paved the way for us, if these movies hadn’t been released, our movie would’ve had a tougher process making it to the screens.

    Rita: We also want to bring our movie to people in the country, beyond the San José area, with the help of the Netherlands’ Embassy we are working on projects in which our movie can acquire a didactic meaning, helping in gender and sexual education programs.

    Francisco: We want people outside of San Jose to get involved with our movie too, I have been all over the country and there are places where there are no movie theaters. There is a cultural deficiency in places outside of San Jose. There are no movie theaters in Guapiles, Puntarenas, Santa Cruz, etc. Culture seems to depend on malls, but multiplexes only offer commercial movies. how can a low budget movie like ours compete against a blockbuster playing in ten movie screens?

    We booked eight theaters for March and afterwards we’ll take the movie on tour all over the towns without theaters. I don’t think people in Costa Rica or Latin America make movies to get rich, our intention is that people can see them. We plan to play the movie in community centers, local salons, restaurants even… we want to make the public feel close to our movie, we want to offer them something different to do. Instead of going to the bar, come see a movie.

    Jose: Are you planning to bring the movie to film festivals?

    Francisco: Only for people to watch them cause most festivals are rigged anyway.

    (Everyone laughs)

    Francisco: We are not interested in glamour, we just want people to see our movie.

    Jose: Our audience is predominantly English speaking. Will there be a copy with English subtitles available for them?

    Francisco: Yes, the movie will play in a movie theater in Lindora with subtitles.

    Jose: We can’t wait to see it then! Best of luck and thanks for your time.

    “Tr3s Marías” opens nationwide on March 23 2012. Be sure to contact your local multiplex or movie theater and ask when it’s opening near you.

    By Jose Solis

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