Being a mother, not being one, being single, staying alone, being a lesbian, choosing another life; leave your deepest dreams and desires in a drawer to take care of a baby, a baby that society sometimes loves more than oneself. A baby that has to be born for you to be a woman, a real woman, because if you don’t stay halfway, you don’t complete your cycle, the one that corresponds to you biologically or perhaps the one that society demands of you. Choose, choose on time, you miss the train, life.
What woman has not gone through this torture? Doesn’t it look terrifying?
Those questions are heavy, they don’t let you sleep, they become a monster that torments you daily and pierces the soul. That is well known by Michelle Garza Cervera, director of Bonemakerthe most recent horror film in Mexico, a film that could mark a before and after in Mexican genre cinema.
“Bonemaker it is a film that talks about a woman’s process through her first pregnancy, in which a macabre entity begins to torture her and question her to find out if she wants that domestic life or not”, explains the filmmaker.
This is Michelle’s debut feature, a graduate of the Centro de Capacitación Cinematográfica, and has been described by international critics as a film that dialogues with classics such as The Babadook, The Devil’s Legacy and Rosemary’s Baby. In addition, it won recognition for Best New Narrative Direction and the Nora Ephron Award during the 2022 Tribeca International Film Festival.in addition to being named Best Ibero-American Film at the Sitges Film Festival.
Written in collaboration with the screenwriter Abia Castillo, With whom Michelle has worked together creatively, the film tells the story of Valeria (Natalia Solián), who has an apparently happy marriage with Raúl (Alfonso Dosal). The couple receives the news that they are pregnant with joy, however, for the protagonist the experience becomes terrifying. A sinister entity will endanger her life and, after giving birth, that of her baby. To save herself, she will have to delve into her punk past and into a world of urban witches who will guide her to face the Boness.
Bonemaker: A Personal Story
The director started from the personal when writing this story, as she acknowledges that she grew up with a rather dark figure at home that had to do with a woman making decisions about her body and life; she invariably saw herself reflected. After the death of her mother, Michelle began to think about what she had lived through, the silences, the sacrifices and the pain. In the film, she wanted to explore the blindness that exists in many families regarding the pressures and breakdowns that being a woman entails.
“Years go by and I think about what mothers go through,” she tells us. “And the processes that we as women go through, thinking about whether or not you want that life. And I think that without a doubt feminism took my whole life and I am very grateful for it because it made me question many things. I started having nightmares and having panic attacks about what I wanted out of my life and I found it to be very inspiring material.”
Michelle never hesitated to make Bonemaker a genre film: it knows well that there is no more monstrous idea than leaving the decisions about your body to “what will they say”, to the judgments and those imposed desires, which come more from the outside than from the inside. Themes such as pregnancy, the disruptive entry into domestic life and the idea of happiness that women are constantly sold define the film.
This is how Natalia Solián, the protagonist of this story, recognizes it:
“The monster [que la película dibuja] He is very generous because guilt, frustration, fits in him, if you are a woman reaching 30 and you have not been a mother, there are a series of questions that you must answer even if the answers exist. What I liked the most is that it is a very open monster, you can metaphorize everything”.
Faced with this pressure, however, there is always a breather. In the case of Valeria, that is the world of her past, a punk and underground universe. Octavia lives in it, played by Mayra Batalla (Fire night), a character representing the land of the film. She is her ally who does not let the monster devour her alone, but she will also confront Valeria to push her to decide what she really wants.
“For me, Octavia is a woman who is the sanity of the film”, comments Maya Batalla, “she is the space in which Valeria can be whoever she wants to be and she will not be judged, but rather embraced and loved, but questioned. I love that about this relationship and that ability to be able to disagree, say the net, but I tell you with a lot of love. Here it is a free space and from there they relate and that is why Valeria always returns to Octavia”.
Being a woman and making genre films
On the other hand, Michelle Garza Cervera confesses that she faced other types of monsters when she ventured to direct a genre story in our country. She acknowledges that she did have the level of complexity of her being a female filmmaker in an industry that, on the one hand, does not usually have the resources for this type of horror stories, and on the other, continues to drag macho dynamics and representation problems.
Let’s remember that Mexican filmmakers are still struggling to break through in the Mexican film scene. Of the total films produced in 2021 in our country, 25% were directed by a woman, while 43% had a production company, 34% participated as screenwriters and 16% as photographers. Just two years ago, at the Cinematographic Training Center, where Garza Cervera studied for a degree in Directing, it was determined that, as a rule, half of the applicants per generation should be women. Regarding contemporary genre cinema, most horror films are directed by men; filmmakers like Michelle, issa lopez (come backsoon true detective) either Sandra Becerril (They’re here) have been the exception in recent years.
“Now I see it from a distance and I do believe that many things that I experienced happened like this because I was a woman,” admits Michelle. “There are many collaborators who do not believe, who do not give a penny because you are going to achieve it and those processes are very hard. I’m not saying that men don’t do it, but I do believe that there is a job that we girls must do, double the effort. I feel very proud of having managed to follow my instinct and I believe that in such a patriarchal world you should always listen to yourself”.
Bonemaker It was filmed in Mexico City and presents common settings, popular neighborhoods, sounds of the city, and customs of the Chilanga families. Even the religious theme is represented with a huge Virgin of Guadalupe in the first sequence, which stands as a symbol of the self-sacrificing mother and the idea of the “good woman”. From there, however, the film is a journey through different Mexicos, full of symbols, Catholic and pagan, healers, remedies, aspirational middle-class colonies and punk concerts.
Among Michelle Garza’s cinematographic references are directors such as Roman Polanski, responsible for Rosemary’s Baby; Lucrecia Martel, who directed La Cienega in 2001, and Carlos Enrique Taboada, director of Poison for the Fairies. In fact, the latter is Michelle Garza’s favorite movie. The filmmaker is convinced that horror is the ideal genre to express the everyday in our country.
In contrast to large genre productions, Bonemaker It was made with a budget for a Mexican debut, ranging between 10 and 15 million pesos. Garza Cervera admits that this is not enough for a horror film with visual effects –as a comparative data, the Mexican film km 31, by Rigoberto Castañeda, had a budget of almost 40 million pesos. However, the cinematographer of BonemakerNur Rubio Sherwell, as well as her editor Adriana Martínez, production designer Ana J. Bellido, and the rest of the crew they managed to achieve what the director had in mind.
“The truth is that it is a film that was made with a budget for a Mexican debut. It’s not that one scene is more expensive than another, there are no expensive locations, some are the Chapultepec Forest, we prepared a lot, there was a lot of pre-production because we knew we had a low budget”, comments the filmmaker.
Faced with a limited budget, pre-production is everything. In this shoot there was no improvisation, but there was a lot of writing work over the course of three years, weeks to shoot, a pandemic that gave them time to think and correct and be as prepared as possible to get to the set.
Huesera is just the beginning
Bonemaker is a film directed by a woman, written by two, starring a mainly female cast (Natalia Solián and Mayra are also joined by mercedes hernandez and aida lopez), which defends the freedom to choose and shows very different images of motherhood. In the words of Mayra Batalla: “It gives continuity to everything that has been requested, shouting in many ways. Bonemaker it goes a step further, it is less adolescent and gives the fight cry, it is a film that touches on a very mature, very elevated conversation”.
Michelle Garza Cervera admits that she never imagined the success and reception she has had Bonemaker. However, the film has already placed it in the crosshairs of the industry and has positioned itself as a look to keep track of. Among her upcoming projects is the premiere of the series the hour markedon the Vix+ platform –remake of the classic horror series of the 80s -, where he directed and wrote a chapter. Likewise, he reveals that he is working on the adaptation of the story That summer in the darkby the Argentine writer Mariana Enriquezwho has also risen to the firmament of literary stars of the genre in Latin America for his horror of the everyday.
“I had the opportunity thanks to Bonemaker to meet her in Switzerland, at a festival; she was a jury,” Michelle said later, in another interview with CINEMA PREMIERE. «It was one of the best days of my life. After seeing some of my short films, an animator friend sent me the book. The things we lost in the fire. He felt that we had something in common and I think it has to do with the fact that, although we are very different, of course, there is an intention to narrate from our perspectives. I am very influenced by North American cinema, but I am very concerned about building from here, tied to our place. That’s why his work excites me so much ».
Bonemaker, by Michelle Garza Cervera, can be seen in Mexican theaters starting this February 23. After seeing her, we’ll probably stop cracking the bones in her hands the same way.
Lizeth Basaldua Journalist, writer and screenwriter from the Cinematographic Training Center. She watches movies and reads books to the beast. She could see Amélie and Eternal Radiance of a Mind Without Memories a hundred times. She dreams of writing like Charlie Kaufman