The Canadian Film Institute is presenting the 17th Annual Latin American Festival. Featuring 16 films from 15 Latin American nations, the 2013 edition of the Festival began on Thursday, March 21st and runs until April 7th. I caught up with Andrea Martinez, producers of CICLO, a documentary about Arturo and Gustavo Martinez, brothers who were the first to make the bike trip from Mexico City to Toronto in the 1950s. Fifty three years later these two men, now 75 and 78, drive along the exact same route followed by a small film crew. The objective is simple: to see what has changed, both in the landscape and inside themselves. CICLO is an exploration of memory, the heart, and the unavoidable passage of time.
The documentary plays at the Library and Archives Auditorirum on Saturday, March 23rd at 9:15pm.
Apt613: Tell us about yourself? What’s your background?
Andrea Martinez: I was born in Toronto and lived all over North America during my childhood, due to my father’s job. I have lived in Mexico City, New Orleans, Pittsburgh, Hanna Wyoming (small mining town population 2500) Los Angeles, Toronto and Montreal.
I did a Bachelor’s Degree in communications in Mexico City and then received a Fulbright scholarship to do a Master’s in Film at the University of Southern California.
Upon receiving my Master’s, I returned to Mexico, 5 months pregnant and with no connections to the film industry and no project in line (I had thought of making a film about the bicycle trip but fortunately did not find the funding at the time). It took me 5 years to be able to film my debut film “Insignificant Things” (produced by Pan’s Labyrinth director Guillermo del Toro). I love the film and am very proud of it, but few people saw it because it was released 5 days before the Influenza panic of 2009. The film theatres were shut down and Warner Bros had no interest in rereleasing it. However, instead of immersing myself in frustration I set out to shoot CICLO.
Apt613: Why the story of CICLO? The main characters are your father and uncle – it’s obviously a personal story for you. Did this trip help shape their lives?
AM: I exist because of this journey!!!
My father and uncle made the journey to Canada without any intention of staying but when they arrived, the Canadian government offered them residency and how could they say no? They both ended up marrying Canadians. My family stayed in Canada until 1969 and then started moving around the continent but my Tio (uncle) Gustavo never left. To this day, he lives in Toronto.
Apt613: So in fact this journey was a major turning point in their lives. (The family tree sprouted maple leaves!)
I grew up with this story. When I was a little girl, I thought it was pretty normal to have a Dad who had traveled from Mexico to Canada on bicycle. Doesn’t everyone have one of those??? Later on, I learned it was definitely NOT normal. When I started getting interested in making films, this was such an obvious choice for me and as time went on, it became not only a wish but a necessity to tell this story.
Apt613: Has your love of cycling influenced the selection of the topic for the documentary?
AM: Cycling is in my genes! Although I have never made such an amazing feat as my father and uncle’s 5,600 km voyage, cycling has always been a part of life. From my first orange bike with training wheels to when I was studying for my BA in Mexico City, where I would travel an hour and a half to get to the university at a time when cyclists were pretty much invisible to drivers (thankfully that has changed), to the present day – I love my bike!
I love the fact that in this film I have combined my passion for my work with my passion for cycling. It’s exciting because a lot of cyclists and cyclist associations have gotten in touch with us through Facebook. I think there is a huge potential audience for the film there and I love that! Two weeks ago I went to the Guadalajara Film Festival and a cycling association organized a night ride and then a screening of the film. I was worried only 10 people would show up and there ended up being like 400! It was amazing!
I think this is a film which is going to have a long and happy life through word of mouth and bicycles!
Apt613: What has filming Ciclo taught you? Either about yourself, your family or more generally about the rigours of documentary film-making?
AM: Wow. Where to start…
This has been such an incredibly difficult, joyous, heart-breaking, emotionally intense process. I edited the film and it took me almost 3 years to do it.
This film is not only about an extraordinary bicycle adventure, it is also a journey through pain, sadness and loss. I was slowly and painfully losing my mother through Alzheimer’s during the entire process. There is also super8 footage from my father’s first marriage which nobody had ever seen. Not even him. So you can just imagine, it was very cathartic not only for him but for the entire family.
The shooting of the film itself brought me much closer to both my father and my uncle (I learned my uncle is a natural born actor and has a flare for the comedic I had not known until then!).
And as for the rigours of making documentaries… It is easy to say perseverance is crucial but when you actually have to persevere… wow. In my case, it was only because it was so undeniably and urgently necessary to tell this story that I am here today here in Ottawa, presenting the film.
Apt613: What are your expectations from the Ottawa Latin American Film Festival?
AM: I want to reach people’s hearts. I want them to leave the film wanting to live life to the fullest. That is my expectation. This is the first screening of Ciclo in my country of birth… and I hope the first of many!