LATEST | FEATURES | INTERVIEWS | NEWS | FRIGHTFEST | REVIEWS Interview with Alex Kahuam writer and director of Forgiveness
By James Whittington, Sunday 5th September 2021
Director Alex Kahuam has brought to Arrow Films FrightFest Online Edition a brutal and intelligent film, Forgiveness. Almost devoid of dialogue, it's an excursion into the raw side of reality. Here he chats about this movie and his plans for the future.
HC: Was there one movie you saw when growing up which made you want to go into filmmaking?
AK: When we were kids my brother and I my parents took us a lot to the theaters and this is where everything began for me. I just loved the experience so much and till this day I thank them because they triggered this on me and for many years filmmaking has been my life. While growing up Hollywood films have always been something that I've liked. For example Steven Spielberg's films. There's many films that made me want to become a filmmaker. But if we talk about horror I would say Texas Chainsaw Massacre is a masterpiece. The way I felt after watching that film is something I will never forget. Maestro Tobe Hooper rest in peace you are a legend. David Lynch and Dario Argento are masters of the craft too and their movies are a HUGE influence in my work.
HC: Where did the idea for Forgiveness come from and how would you describe it?
AK: The idea from this film came by an accident. At the time I had another movie that we were working on (3.6 years ago), but we weren't getting the financing that we needed so I was getting frustrated with the situation and it was one evening that I kept thinking about it while I was driving on the freeway in LA and suddenly this car hit me and we ended up in a collision accident. I remember opening my eyes after the crash and saying "this is it". The accident was bad luckily nothing happened to me or the other drivers but it made me realize "why are you waiting to tell stories?" "Why don't you make a different film with locations or things you have access to". "Why don't you make a film that you don't require a studio budget?". So then I started to think about everything I could use in Mexico and the USA for a film and that's where the plan and the idea was born. My only rule was to do something different from the other feature screenplays that I've already written before. I had thrillers, psychological thrillers, slashers, but I was missing something. I wanted to do a film with a lot of metaphoric elements and a film that will show how I felt at the time. It just felt like a nightmare so I wanted to portray the same on the screen in a horror film. My film is raw and I know it will divide. It won't be for everyone because it's a metaphor about many things: Life, Death, religion, good, evil, hell, violence, human trafficking many many things that divides the human kind.
HC: The movie is very dreamlike and raw, did it take a long time get the script right?
AK: I would say that the script took about 6 Months. I just wanted to put on paper as many elements as possible that will reflect how I felt at the time and this nightmary effect that humanity is or has.
HC: Was it a hard movie to cast as there are some pretty raw scenes in the movie?
AK: I was very lucky to count with a great casting director named Silvia Gil. I sent her the script and she found great talent for the film. It took us a couple of months to find everyone but I'm really happy with the casting that we got. As you are saying we have difficult scenes in the film and I needed great actresses/actors who were capable of facing dark moments. I was straight forward with all of them and told them that it was not going to be easy but at the same time that it was going to be a great experience with the way I approach my films which is with the use of long takes.
HC: The three female leads really do go through some challenging moments, what was the atmosphere like on set?
AK: It was tricky because yes we have 12 minute long takes no cuts and challenging raw scenes. The vibes on set were great, everyone knew the message that we were going to be spreading and there wasn't tension in between takes. I would like to thank Alejandra Toussaint, Alejandra Zaid and Jessica Ortiz because throughout all the chapters there's difficult moments on screen. They believed in me and went all in. I was right behind all the female leads and behind my cinematographer Diego Cacho, I was holding a wireless monitor so I was really close to them throughout all the scenes and the shoot. Me and Diego know each other since the age of 11 and we were raised with the same values and Mexican old principles. We never wanted anyone to feel uncomfortable. And I think we created this really nice trust between our crew and the cast.
HC: The film has virtually no dialogue, what challenges did that create for you as a director?
AK: It was very challenging not only as a director but also as a writer. I always throw a lot of dialogue on my scripts so this was new territory for me however I really liked it and I would love to explore it again. I'm not sure if soon but down the road I will.
HC: Where did you shoot it and was it all on location?
AK: We shot on location and as I previously mentioned I thought about what we could I use in Mexico or the USA. I had access to a hospital in Mexico. From my dad's side the majority of the family are doctors. Back in the day my grandfather founded a hospital and now my dad is the owner. I asked the family if we could shoot the movie there and they were really supportive and allowed us to film Forgiveness there.
HC: The film has been described as having influences of Carpenter and Argento, how does that feel?
AK: It feels AMAZING! Are you kidding me? Having those 2 names being reminded from your work and getting people talking about it is INCREDIBLE. John Carpenter and Dario Argento are masters of the craft.
HC: What is the film industry like in Mexico?
AK: The film industry was really good before Covid, but then as any other country everything stopped but now is getting back to its feet.
HC: So, what are you up to at the moment?
AK: I'm working on my next 2 films: one called "Red Light" based on a proof of concept/short film that has had more than 30 official selections around the world including SITGES official selection in 2020 and this year BIFFF official selection 2021. My Producing partner is legendary horror icon Ted Raimi and producer Marco de Molina, we are confident that next year is looking great for our film. And the other film is called "Stay With Me" and I'm producing that one with my Mexican hermano, filmmaker Adrian Bodegas whom he produced with me my first feature film Escondida. We are trying to do everything on our end to luckily start pre-production before the end of this year but we'll see. Everything changes with this weird covid times but for sure we are making a film soon. These 2 films are the opposite from Forgiveness in many different ways but both are genre films. I'm super excited about 2021 and 2022!
HC: Alex Kahuam, thank you very much.
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