As part of the South Florida's movement of new independent filmmakers, Izzy Martinez is an artist that works non-stop around the clock...literally. He is an all-terrain kind of artist, choosing acting as his main interest having been in diverse TV shows and series, shorts and features, he has also directed several shorts, served as a camera man, art director, co-producer, editor and writer in others, dedicated full time to stage productions, videos and hosting a space for new filmmakers to show their work, Izzy is determined to run all the gamut of visual arts.
Now he is presenting his latest work as a director: "En Soledad" a story written by playwright Reynaldo Santa Cruz and starring Maga Uzo, Osvaldo Strongoli and...himself.
We recently sat for a little chat regarding the film and some of his choices.
Agatino Zurría: How did this story come about? What was your interest in shooting this material?
Izzy Martinez: The way this story came about was that the actress Maga Uzo approached me to direct her in a Festival of Monologues that happens every year at Havanafama Studios. After reading the monologue I fell in love with the story and I said to myself “I can make this into a film”. I told her I would not direct her in the theater play but I wanted to adapt it into a screenplay. My interest in this was to visually portray how loneliness and depression can lead people to commit unthinkable tragic acts.
AZ: The film is claustrophobic and there are no real reasons for her death…apart from three characters: a man she is supposed to marry, a man who laughs, and her dead mother. Still, the film doesn’t give us a head-on reason for her attempt to kill herself. Was this intentional?
IM: The way I shot it was intentional to make you feel uncomfortable and I wanted to give the sense that you were there with her and felt desperate while watching. The reason why she does what she does is up to your interpretation. I feel many people see no light at the end of the tunnel and others are just driven to insanity…As seen in the first scene and throughout the movie The script was much longer but I needed to cut out some scenes that gave a clearer reasoning. I don’t believe in feeding the audience all the reasons so they leave the theater saying “And that’s why”.
AZ: You used handheld camera throughout the film?
IM: Two reasons for that. One, when you go handheld, it gives the sense of chaos, instability. Two, it makes you feel you are actually there watching but can’t do anything about it. At first I was going to mix it up but Jonathan Chekroune, our Director of photography, thought that my first instinct was correct so we ended up connecting on the style from the get go.
AZ: How was working with Maga Uzo? What did she bring to the table?
IM: Maga is a very outgoing person and a go-getter. Her passion for acting makes her committed to her craft. Since she already did this character in Peru (where she comes from originally), and then again in the Festival of Monologues, she knew the character inside out. I didn’t have to direct her too much, but just watch her unfolding moments and making sure everything was in synch with what we were doing. This made it challenging because I wanted to change it up a little and she could not budge out of it to a point of frustration. After seeing the final product I was happy with the outcome.
AZ: What is the connection between this film and your previous work? What are you trying to convey as a whole? What do you want people to take with them after watching your films?
IM: There really is no connection between my films. I’ve directed a total of four films and all are different: Drama, action, comedy and now this melodrama. I guess I just want people to enjoy visually a story that I’m telling, to enjoy themselves and if they somehow connect with the story or the characters, then the more satisfied I am as a filmmaker.
AZ: There has to be a reason why you make a film about redemptive love and now a depressed woman on the verge of suicide.
IM: Well, the reason why I made this particular film is that we all have been in her situation because of love, disappointment or guilt, and I think we all have thought about a very dramatic way of ending all that. If you allow yourself to be consumed by such negativity, you too will find that the ultimate sacrifice is a strong option. The feelings of not finding a way out, or being trapped in an ill love affaire, they are all actual things that happen to us on a regular basis and we think nobody else goes through that “Why me?” we tend to ask. In my previous film “30 days” I presented a problem and a solution that lit the way for some characters. Here I wanted to be more minimalistic and leave resolution outside of the frame.
AZ: So you don’t want to give a solution but a warning?
IM: That’s correct. More like a reflection on your own life and see what others are willing to do.
AZ: What’s your next project?
IM: Well, apart from my participation in the TV series Graceland from USA network, I just finished acting in a movie titled SHOOT by director Christian Perez about a photographer who is so obsessed with creating his next masterpiece that it’s driving him insane…until the twist comes around. Other than that, I’m involved in a couple of theater plays (one of them is “Las Pericas” which comes to life every Friday in May at Havanafama theater in Calle 8) and I’m hosting a new project called Cine Café Film Night, which opens a new venue for independent filmmaker to show their work. There are so many new voices out there and the traditional ways of distributing their productions are collapsing in such a way that we have gotten to a point where we have to go back to basic, and find out that people are really longing for those movie nights in little theaters where they can see stories they aren’t seeing in regular commercial multiplexes with their formulaic and repetitious films, I mean, how many super hero movies you need to watch to understand that the Good always prevails?