RMA 2016 interview Joaquin del Paso on Maquinaria Panamericana
A tragedy happens in the factory of Maquinaria Panamericana. Her father-like boss Don Alejandro is found death in his office. With him dies the illusion that the company was doing fine; it was actually bankrupt.
Their future uncertain and tortured by grief the employees lock the gates to mourn and to look for a solution. It is going to be a long night…
Director Jaoquin del Passo studied at the national film school in Łódź. Upon returning to his home country Mexico he literally ran into the factory used in Maquinaria Panamericana located near the airport.
JP: It was the location that gave us the idea. I was working on another script but I thought this was a fantastic place. Every corner was beautiful, full of details of life. Everyone had left a unique mark. A desk chair had the shape of a butt printed in the fabric; or a strange picture above a desk. And although it might not seem like it: the story is very relatable to me personally. Selling machinery for construction was my family’s business. My grandfather founded Maquinaria Panamericana in the 50’s.
RMA: Is that where the old video material came from?
JP: Everything came from the family business, even the logos. We brought the company back to life. It went bankrupt in 1995. There was a huge crisis in Mexico. The peso crashed and so did many national companies. It was a big scandal because the bankers made a deal with the government and declared themselves bankrupt. Mexico is like a machine that does not work properly. It is a show pony or a concept of a machine that makes a lot of noise but doesn’t get things done. To me a broken machine is an analogy of Mexico today.
As a kid I spent so much time in warehouses and it all felt so familiar that I instantly let go of the other script. This was in October and we shot the film in May.
“To me a broken machine is an analogy of Mexico today.”
RMA: Not the average 6 years I hear most of the time.
JP: Making your first feature is like a breaking-point. I’ve seen so many of my friends waiting and fighting. I thought: if I don’t do it now I will never make a film. That’s my personality.
RMA: You wrote your script together with Lucy Pawlak.
JP: Yes, she is a British artist. We studied cinematography together in Poland. I had very little time to make the film and I felt she would be perfect to help me. She’s really hard working; a great motivation. Making a film about Mexico I thought it’d be interesting to write with someone who had never been there and who thought outside the box.
RMA: What is the sweet guitar song Ignacio keeps listening to?
JP: When we explored the warehouse – me and Lucy- we found a small apartment inside the factory. It was all dusty and abandoned but the closet still had some shoes and suits inside. In that room I found a box full of tapes with romantic bolero music from the 50’s and 60’s. I went down to talk to one of the warehouse managers – who was also one of the actors – and he told me the story of Don Pedro, the owner of the factory. He moved inside the warehouse after being kicked out of his family home. Which was quite an eccentric thing to do. He was a rich man – his company at that time was doing very well – and he chose to live next to all the dusty tools, the window looking out on one of the most ugly avenues of Mexico City. The workers built a very strong relationship with him. It was like being inside his house. They could smell the food he was cooking. That was a beautiful motive in the film; how the owner became the father of his employees. They still have his picture on their desks. Nothing fanatic; he just treated everyone as part of the machinery family. I realized that doesn’t exist anymore in this world. Family companies are disappearing; the work floor has become impersonal. You are not supposed to bring your life there and if they want to kick you out it only takes a minute to erase you.
So to come back to you question. I went back to the apartment and stole that box of tapes and while writing the script we listened to those tapes none stop and after we got so tired of it. The closest music to Bolero is actually Spanish Guitar, so we time traveled back to the 17th century to get this song.