Behind-the-scenes on 13CO writer and director Patrick Fileti’s explosive, award-winning short film about a Mexican town that has embraced pyrotechnics
Inferno tells the true story of a small town famous for its pyrotechnics and the unique sub culture that surrounds it. A portrayal of the lives of artisans and their families that make up the heartland of Tulepec Mexio, in the lead up to the festival of San Juan de Dios. Inferno honours the spirit, tradition and passion of Tultepec’s community in celebrating life, to the point of embracing death.
Fileti was asked to explain some of his inspirations and challenges with the film.
LBB> What was the genesis of the project? What inspired it?
Patrick> I’m drawn to social stories that confront pre-conceived ideas of people and communities; opening up a dialogue about diverse traditions and subcultures. I became captivated with Mexico; brimming with life, colour, religion, superstition and Mayan Mystique. I found it fascinating how they would celebrate both life and death alike. I knew that this was something worth looking deeper into. I came across an article about this insane Fireworks Festival in Tultepec, Mexico. After some in depth research I found that due to the lack of regulations in Tultepec, on average there are 180 pyrotechnic related injuries including 48 deaths each year. I knew that this town would be fuelled with stories so I cold called a few producers in Mexico City and headed over.
LBB> Creatively what were the biggest challenges?
Patrick> As soon as I arrived I spent two full weeks knocking on doors and audio interviewing the town folk, luckily I speak Spanish. I was blown away with their resilience and spirit but also with how many heart-breaking stories there were. I also knew I didn’t want to just capture a documentary in the traditional way, I wanted all those stories to manifest themselves in a visual feast. So I decided not to listen to the interviews again but follow the narrative that stood out to me the most and focus on the beauty of death.
LBB> From a craft and production perspective what were the really interesting aspects for you?
Patrick> One of my goals was to work with an all Mexican team. I wanted us to blend in and I wanted them to be as excited as I was about a colourful town in their own backyard. I found my rock in Producer Tonitzin, who really went out of his way to own the project as much as I did. I also knew I needed an incredible Cinematographer so I reached out to Galo Olivares, who at the time (unbeknownst to me) was just finishing up on Alfonso Cuaron’s ‘Roma’ which went on to win an Oscar for best cinematography. He loved my treatment and came on board. He was such an incredible talent on this project and he made the most with what we had to work with.
LBB> What was it like working in and immersing yourself in the community and culture?
Patrick> That was the most rewarding experience for me. Going as far as sleeping on a pull out bed in a family’s home for four weeks and eventually the whole crew slept in the room with me as we converted the backyard into our production base. Production was definitely a challenge and there were a few scary moments whilst living and filming in a town covered in gunpowder with explosions going off around us.
The sound track took a six months to develop - how did you do that, why was it important to get that right?
Music is always integral in my work and I knew I wanted a powerful marriage between music and visuals. I enlisted another fellow Mexican and super talented composer Daniel McCormick who threw his heart at it and the results are mesmerising.
Inferno is currently on the international film circuit and has also just premiered on NOWNESS.
Best Short Documentary | Palm Springs International Film Festival 2019
Finalist Best Short Documentary | Raindance Film Festival 2019
International Vision Award | Flickers Rhode Island Film Festival 2019
Best Short Documentary | Dumbo Film Festival 2019
Best Cinematography | Atlanta Docufest
Nashville International Film Festival
Aesthetica International Film Festival
Edmonton International Film Festival
Guanajuato International Film Festival
Calgary International Film Festival
Crossing the Line Film Festival
St Louis International Film Festival
Flickerfest International Film festival