With “Los Lobos”, the story of two Mexican brothers locked between the four walls of an American apartment while waiting for their mother to return from work, Samuel Kishi Leopo tells his own childhood between waiting and nostalgia. Encounter.
Los Lobos by Samuel Kishi Leopo
Theatrical release on January 19, 2022
8-year-old Max and 5-year-old Leo move from Mexico to Albuquerque with their mother Lucia in search of a new life. While waiting for their mother to return each evening, who works tirelessly, Max and Leo observe their new neighborhood through the window. They have to learn English on tapes. The condition imposed by their mother if they wish one day to realize their dream: to go to Disneyland…
DashFUN: In this film, you tell your story, and that of your mother and your brother. What memories do you have of this period of your life?
Samuel Kishi Leopo (director) : The most vivid memory I have of that time remains the sound of my mother’s voice through a tape recorder. The whole film is an exercise in memory: when I was five years old, my mother left my father and went into exile with my three-year-old brother and me in the United States to try to build a new life. We crossed the border with our tourist visas stating we were going to Disney. My mother arrived with no job, no accommodation and no knowledge of English. We brought with us the bare minimum, a few toys and an audio recorder.
When she finally found a job, she was forced to leave us alone in a small apartment she had rented in a rough neighborhood of Santa Ana, California, and decided to record stories, English lessons, games, house rules, etc. on the audio tape for us to listen to all this. My brother and I were hitting the play button to listen to our mother and soon it had us imagining a lot of things from those recordings as we waited for her to return. Later, we also started recording ourselves, and this device became a communication tool between the three of us.
Was it difficult to dive back into this period of your life?
Reinterpreting and assimilating as an adult what I experienced as a migrant child was a difficult part of the process, especially realizing what my mother had to go through to keep us afloat during the worst times. Another difficult aspect was managing to keep some distance from my own story, enough to let the characters blossom and the film come to life on its own terms. The work of co-screenwriters Sofía Gómez Córdova and Luis Briones was crucial in this process. Their work was essential in shaping the memories and integrating them into a film.
How did you choose your two young actors, and how did you work with them?
We did castings in different cities in Mexico: we saw about a thousand children, and kept six of them for comedy and improvisation workshops. Maximiliano Nájar Márquez and Leonardo Nájar Márquez stood out there: in addition to being talented and sensitive children, it turned out (production miracle) that they are brothers in real life. We put a lot of emphasis on the relationship between the actors. Martha, Max and Leo rehearsed for several months and we worked hard to build trust. We also involved the children’s parents in the process, and their help was essential as they then gave us permission for Martha and the children to live together for a few weeks as a family.
Throughout the process, Martha and I prepared and practiced improvisation and play exercises with the children. Later the famous coach Fátima Toledo joined the process and we worked with her for about a month. Above all, I think the biggest challenge in rehearsing and filming was to always be honest in our emotions, to do as we felt and let it flow from there. Acting is acting, and children are professional performers.
Martha Reyes Arias is very moving in the film. She embodies the courage, strength, resilience, but also the loneliness and sadness of all these women who have tried to find a better life in the United States. How did you work with her?
Martha gave Lucía depth and realism that was still lacking in early drafts of the script. She said she wanted to build the character of a real woman, not a “publicity mom”. We have…