LA CHILANGA BANDA
“Mexico is the country with the best facial hair… maybe rivalled by the French,” says filmmaker Francisco Sánchez Solis. According to him, having good facial hair is a skill. “People don’t really understand it you know? You need to take care of it, you need to nurture your facial hair. The problem is I’m not a natural.”
In his mid twenties, his moustache is not the only thing that separates him from most of his peers. He also just recently opened a production company in Mexico City, Enfant & Poulet, with one of his close friends.
Born and raised in Mexico City, Francisco attended New York University to study film. Following graduation, he worked for a year under Annie Leibovitz and at A24 and Parts and Labor, two of the most important independent film companies in the U.S. He then travelled for several months before deciding to come back to Mexico City to pursue a career in film. “I didn’t really have film industry connections here. I didn’t go to school with them,” he says describing the film crowd in Mexico City. He took the risk regardless, and started Enfant & Poulet with friend Eduardo Lecuona. Through it, he hopes to develop narrative, documentary and creative projects.
The team started working together on a few short films, two of which got into the Morelia Film Festival. However, the most recent film accepted by the festival, Bea, was their first narrative collaboration from start to finish. It follows Mexico’s privileged elite in Acapulco. Francisco says, “What defines Mexico in my opinion, I think, is inequality. This is one of the most unequal countries in the world. This is where at one point the richest man in the world lived while the minimum wage was barely three dollars a day… It’s a very polarized country.”
The short film that Francisco produced focuses on the story of an upper class group of Mexican friends enjoying a night in Acapulco. He explains that, superficially, the film is a love story between two rich kids — the girl is in love with a guy, and the guy cheats on her. However, the backdrop provokes social commentary. Their story is contextualized by the location, Acapulco: formerly a “playground for the rich,” it is now one of the most dangerous cities in the world. While the group is consumed by the immediate drama, violence occurs around them, though never really interfering with their lives. “Because that’s the reality. Even if there’s a war going on in Mexico and there is violence and chaos, it is violence and chaos mostly for the poor.”
When approached with a new project, Francisco says he tries to understand their story first. “There’s a cool story underneath everything,” he said. However, in his own narrative projects, he says he aims to frame his topics as questions: “I truly believe that the role of the artist or filmmaker is not to give answers but to ask the proper questions. And the most important questions are actually the ones that we will never have an answer for.” Specifically, he says, one of the themes he keeps returning to are the complexities of the domestic sphere.
It is primarily his family that led him to film. “I am a cinephile because of my parents. Every Sunday without exception we would go to the movie theater and very often we would go to the Cineteca Nacional because that’s where the good films were being shown, films that ultimately led me to be a filmmaker,” said Francisco.
“A lot of times, I used to find myself alone at the Cineteca. In highschool, I would say that I would go maybe three times per week to the movie theater. I spent a lot of time by myself, alone, in these dark rooms, just being silent. A witness to the moving image,” he said.