• 'The first thing you have to understand is you have to be confident in the stories you are going to tell': Guillermo Arriaga. (NITV NEWS)Source: NITV NEWS
Best known for films 21 Grams and Babel, award-winning Mexican filmmaker, director, producer, author and screenwriter, Guillermo Arriaga popped into the NITV studios. This is what he had to say.
Hannah Hollis

18 Feb 2016 - 4:36 PM  UPDATED 19 Feb 2016 - 8:09 AM

1. How important is it that Indigenous people retain their individual culture when a lot of Indigenous groups are labelled as a collective?

I think it’s very important for the Indigenous culture that every group regains their identity, all of them are not all Indigenous they are from different nations different lands, and they have different languages - and we have to respect that diversity. In Mexico for example, they are Aztecs, or Otomi or they are Totonac, or they are a different kind of ethnic groups, and we should not put them in the same bag because that is disrespectful.

2. How has the indigenous aspects of your heritage influenced your work?

Mexico is a country where we are all mixed, so there are many parts of the culture that has to do Indigenous traditions and heritage for example; the jokes we make, we make a lot of very strong jokes about death, we’re always laughing about death, so there are many things coming in to us from our heritage.

3. What is your advice for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people when it comes to being true to their own stories and vision?

The first thing you have to understand is you have to be confident in the stories you are going to tell. You have to trust the stories you’re going to tell because sometimes you think the stories is too individual, or too small for a larger community.

So the best way to be true is to trust the stories you’re going to tell, to trust your own life experience even if it’s boring. Your life experience has something meaningful for other people so I think for any Indigenous filmmaker to understand that no matter what the subject, you can be universal.  

William Faulkner used to say if you want to be universal go talk to your neighbourhood.


4. What’s been the highlight of your professional career?

The greatest highlight is my daughter directing a short film this year [In self-defence] with a story I wrote and she was selected in official competition at the Venice Film Festival.

I was happy because that story she directed, I wrote it when I was her age, when I was 25, she was 24. So it was like myself at her age working with her, so that’s my greatest achievement.

5. What are some indigenous directors and actors that have left an impression on you?

As an actor, I have an admiration for David Gulpilil, and a director like Rachel Pekins or Warwick Thornton or Bec Cole or Richard Franklin.

6. What do you make of the Pope’s recent address to the mass, in native tongue?

I think he did great. I think the genocide by the Catholic Church, how they impose their own views on different people how they massacre Indians, and how they enslave them, how they treat them, it serves that a Pope will speak the language, and in a certain way ask for forgiveness for the sins of the predecessors.