The film that stirred me the most in this year’s Spanish-American sidebar this whole sidebar was By Day and By Night (De día y de noche), which was the first proper science fiction film out of Mexico that most anyone at the SBIFF offices had heard of. Directed masterfully by Alejandro Molina, this cinematic tour de force blends geometric cinematography, futuristically strained family ties, and an overpopulation solution that involves making humans live in day and night “shifts” into a masterpiece. It is a visually impressive film, but the notions of how far a society goes to deal with overpopulation while still remaining productive keeps your mind spinning for days.
Molina, who will be in Santa Barbara this weekend during the screenings of his film, recently answered a few of my questions via email.
Is this the first Mexican science fiction film ever?
No, recently there was other one: 2033 by Francisco Laresgoiti.
Where did you look for inspiration?
A lot from the writer J.G. Ballard and the artist Olafur Elliason.
Where did you get the idea for separating the human race into day and night shifts?
Because of overpopulation in Mexico and the need for productivity in the future.
The set design was brilliant. Who was responsible for that? How long did it take to make perfect?
The production designer was the artist Edgar Orlaineta and the difficulty was in making this concept with a low budget. He is coming to Santa Barbara on Sunday.
The cinematography was also stunning. Can you comment on that?
Yes. For me it was important to have close shots in the metropolis and, in the exterior, long shots, more contemplative. I always believe that will give rhythm to the movie. Also, we did a lot of testing in the color.
What message does this futuristic film carry for the modern world?
Hope and family values, but the problem and the question is still there, moving, like the final shot.
What is your next project?
I am raising money to do a modern fantastic drama. A story about a beautiful pre-Hispanic myth, El Popocatepetl and the Iztlachiuatl, and an actress that is representing Ofelia.
Alejandro Molina’s By Day and By Night screens on Friday, January 28, 2 p.m., Saturday, January 29, 8 p.m., and Monday, January 31, 2 p.m. at the Metro 4. The schedule is subject to change, so see independent.com/sbiff for updates.