Pablo Fendrik and Gael García Bernal discuss a scene on the set of Ardor.
Ardor is a new film co-produced by Argentine, Mexican, Brazilian and American producers, and is written and directed by Pablo Fendrik. It stars Gael García Bernal, Alice Braga, Claudio Tolcachir, Lautaro Vilo, Jorge Sesán and Julián Tello.
The film first premiered on May 19 in Argentina to critical acclaim. It was also screened at Cannes in the Special Selection category. It’s now coming to the United States where it hopes to continue riding its wave of success.
In an exclusive with Living Out Loud – Los Angeles, Fendrik discusses what he considers to be his masterpiece.
“Imagine, I’ve been making small indie films most of my career, and now I’ve had the opportunity to make a film of this scale with considerable resources and, oddly enough, with a lot of creative freedom. No one got in my business, which was wonderful,” the director tells.
With a profound eco-friendly message immersed in compelling argument and suspense, the film presents a clash of ideology in the midst of fire and bullets.
“It wasn’t my intention to make an eco-friendly film, but it undoubtedly is one of its most important aspects. It speaks about conservation of spaces and nature, but ultimately it’s about ourselves. Without these places, our world would be an oven,” Fendrik says. “Ardor is a film told from many perspectives, and I have to say it truly has served to fulfill many of my personal needs.”
The film tells the story of a group of natives and their efforts to fend off the intrusion of the modern world. To do so, they summoned spirits and other supernatural forces to come to their aid. Kaí (Bernal), a type of shaman, emerges from the jungle without explanation, with the aim to defend a group of farmers who dedicate themselves to growing tobacco and are being targeted by powerful corporations in order to use their land in deforestation efforts.
As events unfold, assassins reach the small family made up of Joao (Chico Díaz), his daughter, Vania (Braga), and his partner, Jara (Vilo). As a massive fire descends on their land, the assassins kill Joao and take Vania hostage. Suddenly Kai appears out of nowhere and fends off the assailants. Now Kaí, Vania and Jara must do whatever it takes to protect the land.
The film has been categorized as a ‘Latin western,’ and Fendrik explains the differences between that and American westerns.
“Here, it’s a bit inverted, where the savage is actually the normal. It’s what I tried to portray in the film. The protagonist is the native, and everyone else is the invader. The colonists who are living there are people who live in harmony with the natives, they’re not the outsiders with ambitions to destroy thousands of acres. They just want to live in peace. This unfortunately happens in real life, and I wanted to talk about it in the film.”
Filming in such remote and inhospitable locations is no easy task, and Fendrik describes hurdles such as extreme weather conditions and dealing with poisonous spiders and snakes. He also discusses difficulties in transportation.
“It was tough, but we had a lot of resources and time to prepare so it wasn’t impossible. We did a lot of scouting for locations, and we made sure not to make stupid decisions,” he says. “We managed to find a place to build the sets relatively close to where we were staying. We had a crew preparing everything long before we got there, which cut back on the chances of anything going wrong. ”
Fendrik also touched upon working with Bernal and how he fit into the film.
“We had both been wanting to make a film together for a while now. We met in Cannes in 2007. Eventually I told him about this project, and that I wanted him to star in it. He was immediately interested and was very enthusiastic. As we developed everything he also came on board as a producer, which helped move things along a lot more smoothly.”
Ardor is now in theaters.