In 2007, when Josué Méndez completed his year of mentoring under the guidance of acclaimed British director Stephen Frears, he was determined to explore new ways to work.
The young, award-winning, Peruvian film-maker has recently taken a major step in that direction by collaborating with another writer on a new film script. Frears urged him to do this, in order to concentrate on other aspects of directing.
With support from Rolex, Méndez hired screenwriter, playwright and author Victor Falcón, also from Peru, to co-write Delirio, a dark story that begins when a woman abandons her husband and runs away with her daughter’s boyfriend. The daughter and her father are left to grapple with the situation, desperately seeking reasons for it – and where none exist they invent, dream or hallucinate them.
Drawing inspiration from the atmosphere and tone of Victor Falcón’s previous works, the first draft of the script for Delirio is ready. A more developed draft should be ready by November this year and Méndez and Falcón are currently raising funds to shoot the film.
Méndez has at the same time been working on other projects. After the success of his feature films, Días de Santiago (2004) and Dioses (2008), which he wrote, directed and produced, he received many scripts from young directors asking him to produce their work.
Intrigued with the new challenge of producing something that was not entirely his, Méndez chose Paraiso (Paradise), a feature by Peruvian director Héctor Galvez. The film depicts five young adults in a shantytown on the outskirts of Lima struggling to hang onto the illusion of a fruitful future. The story is based on Galvez’s experiences giving video workshops to disenfranchised youth in Peru.
Paraiso premiered in Venice in 2009 and has been shown at more than 11 festivals worldwide. Thanks to Méndez’s production company, it recently had its commercial release in Peru.
On the red carpet for the world premiere of Paraiso, Official Selection Orizzonti, Venice Film Festival 2009. From left to right: Luis Angel Ramírez, Spanish co-producer, Josué Méndez, Peruvian producer, Héctor Gálvez, Peruvian writer-director, Enid Campos, Peruvian producer, Paulo de Carvalho, German co-producer.
Another very different project taking up much of Méndez’s time is co-directing a television comedy series. Invited by prominent Peruvian television director Lucho Barrios, Méndez began work on Los exitosos Gomes (The Successful Gomes) in 2009. The highly amusing plot presents a married couple who host a television news show. When the husband falls into a coma, a look-alike actor is hired to take his place both on – and off – camera.
The original series was produced and set in Argentina, earning many awards over its 18-month run. The Peruvian version that Méndez co-directs is enjoying similar success, and has recently been purchased for North American audiences by Telemundo, a Spanish-language television network in the United States.
Josué is enthusiastic about the fast learning curve of exploring a new medium. Compared to directing a feature film, television has “its own rules” and directing techniques. Each scene needs to be precise, concise and clear, allowing the audience to understand very quickly what is happening. Shooting with two cameras (instead of one in film-making) means the scenes have to be staged differently, and the frame is wider to include all the action. In Los exitosos Gomes, inspired by American comedy from the 1940s and 1950s, the actors speak quickly, so directing the rhythm of the speech is critical.
Méndez explains that to provide relief from the gruelling schedule of making a television series, it is important to try to have fun at the same time. Shooting long days for 10 months with the same people can be tiring, he says. “The key to survive is to laugh a lot with the actors and the crew.”
When Los exitosos Gomes wraps up later this year, the 33-year-old Peruvian director will focus more on writing and developing some of the many ideas he has waiting in the wings.
In other signs that Méndez is making his mark as a film-maker to watch both at home and abroad, Dioses was released commercially in Buenos Aires in May this year and in Paris in June.