Interview with Filmmaker Alejandro Cabrera (THE SLEEP OF THE RIGHTEOUS)

Matthew Toffolo: What motivated you to make this film?

Alejandro Cabrera: Initially I wanted to try new things (for me) in terms of film language, blocking, camera movement and the use of subtle imagery that allow the viewer to find new readings in a second view. It was going to be just an exercise. But then while writing the script I found how deep the distrust of the Mexicans is in their authorities, how great was the temptation to take justice on your own hands and the great danger that that entailed. I came across the huge dilemma that was hiding behind all this: If a vigilante, in his desire to find justice, made a mistake, would he really be willing to submit himself to justice? Or would he look for ways to justify his mistake by claiming that he was basically doing the right thing?

2. From the idea to the finished product, how long did it take for you to make this short?

About a year and a half, but most of that time was spent waiting for some funding to arrive -that never arrived-. Once we decided to wait no more it was a pretty fast process.

3. How would you describe your short film in two words!?

I wouldn’t dare to do that. I wouldn’t know how to do that without sounding awfully pretentious.

4. What was the biggest obstacle you faced in completing this film?

Money. It’s always the money, isn’t it? The budget was almost zero, so we had to settle for borrowed equipment, a hit-and-run Guerrilla filmmaking style, shooting almost exclusively with available light, having practically no rehearsals,… None of these are really my thing.

5. What were your initial reactions when watching the audience talking about your film in the feedback video?

That was amazing. Fellow filmmakers only comment on the technical aspects of the film, while the audience were all about the theme and the nuances… And they mentioned things that made me feel that -despite the lack of resources- the story touched some strings on them.

Watch the Audience FEEDBACK Video:

6. How did you come up with the idea for this short film?

Actually the idea came to me while re-watching Steven Spielberg’s Munich. There is a scene in the film were the protagonists have to kill an alleged responsible of the Munich 1972 Summer Olympic Massacre, but you can see their hesitation because there is no way they can be certain that this sweet Arabic Literature teacher is actually a mass murderer. So they kill him but they -and the viewer- have to remain in doubt if they did not actually kill an innocent man.

7. What film have you seen the most in your life?

Difficult question. Quite possibly Raiders of the Lost Ark,… but it could be Alien, Jaws, Blade Runner, Close Encounters of the Third Kind, The Untouchables, Taxi Driver, The Shinning, Trainspotting, Seven, The Matrix, Fight Club… There are dozens of movies that I re-watch every year. But I must admit that most recently I find myself often watching and re-watching all of David Fincher’s filmography.

8. You submitted to the festival via FilmFreeway, what are you feelings of the submission platform from a filmmaker’s perspective?

It’s great. It simplifies the process, enormously. I like things clean and clear. I don’t like to waste time and energy with tiresome submission paperwork.

9. What song have you listened to the most times in your life?

Another difficult question. I don’t know. Surely something by Queen, Dire Straits or Pink Floyd, but for some reason The Animals’ The House of Rising Sun is the first song that comes to my mind.

10. What is next for you? A new film?

I have just finished the first draft of what I expect to be my first feature, an Action Crime Thriller in the vein of Cape Fear. I’m also working on the pilot of a female-led Crime Thriller mini-series, and I’ve been asked to write/direct an Action short film. So it seems that 2020 is going to be a pretty busy year.