In this interview with Close-up Culture, director Flavio Pedota opens up about making his debut feature, Infection, in crisis-hit Venezuela.
Infection will have its European premiere at the Raindance Film Festival in London (19 and 20 September). For ticket info
Q: As evidenced in Romero’s films, the zombie genre can be a powerful vehicle to reflect and explore socio-political issues. To what extent – if at all – was the story of ‘Infection’ influenced by the situation in Venezuela under the rule of Maduro?
A: It is impossible to make a film in Venezuela – as someone born and raised in Venezuela – right now without framing the reality of my country.
Even though the film is pure fiction, and is in a genre [zombie film] that I wanted to explore for the first time in my country, the story is based on an actual experience in Venezuela. I hope people watch the film, make analysis and comparisons, and talk about it.
Q: Did you have any reservations about returning to Venezuela to make this film?
A: Yes, it’s probably not a good idea… for now…
Q: Zombie films often thrive off an atmosphere of desperation and paranoia. Did filming in Venezuela and real-life tensions add to the atmosphere in the film?
A: The script was based on the locations. It was shot in my hometown of Cagua and some other towns. There are some CGI cars, but the rest is just abandoned roads and hotels that broke down after the crisis hit. So yes, the deterioration of Venezuela helped me imagine an apocalyptic situation.
Q: Of the cast and crew, the name Genna Chanelle stood out to me. What led Genna to be involved in this project? And how did this Australian actress adapt to working in Venezuela?
A: I met Genna in LA when I was studying, and I told her then that I was going to invite her to work on this film. So I did. She had a great time, except for the days she didn’t shoot and we couldn’t let her out of the house for safety reason. She wasn’t happy about that.
Her character is so important to the story because, as Venezuelans, we have always thought that some foreign institution, like the UN or in this case the WHO, would come and save us from the crisis, to free us all. After you see the film, you get an idea of what I think about this.
Q: It is always interesting to see how a film like this approaches the look and physicality of the zombies. What did you want from your zombies in ‘Infection’?
A: I wanted them to be as real as human can be. I wanted people to look at my infected people and see the real people they see on the streets of Venezuela.
Q: Did you face any notable barriers to making ‘Infection’ in Venezuela?
A: Yes of course, we didn’t have money. I had to travel with a hard-drive in my hand to Mexico and try to find co-producers to help finish the film. Making a film in the middle of a huge hyper-inflation crisis is not simple. Other than that, we did alright.
Q: Do you believe there will be pushback from the government if you try to release the film in Venezuela?
A: It is already being pushed back by the government. We have a distribution deal in Venezuelan cinemas for October 31st, but the government has not approved it – and I don’t think they will. I think we are days away from being banned.
Q: You mentioned earlier that ‘Infection’ is Venezuela’s first zombie film. Do you hope this film can be a building block and inspiration for other filmmakers in the country?
A: I hope so – not only in Venezuela but in Latin America more generally. Filmmakers should be open to creating exciting genre movies that are different to what we are currently used to doing and seeing. There are many ways to tell a story or touch upon important subjects.
Q: What is your relation to the zombie genre? Why did you want your first feature to be a zombie film?
A: I just love them, but I didn’t necessarily plan for my first film to be in this genre. I had three other scripts before this one. Infection was born to me as an idea to create something with what I had and where I was. Of all the stories that I had in mind, Infection was the one that I thought could be possible to do as an independent film.
Q: ‘Infection’ will screen at the Raindance Film Festival in London. What are your thoughts and hopes heading into the festival?
A: It’s surreal, one of those things that you never expect because they are too good to be true. I cannot make it to the screening, but I think it’s such an amazing film festival to be a part of. I’m just honoured.
Q: What is next for you? Any ambitions or upcoming projects to tell us about?
A: Yes, now that I live in Mexico City, I am writing my next feature and building up a team to create my second movie here. I’m fascinated by how these Latin American cities will look in the future when there might be double the population.
You can see ‘Infection’ at the Raindance Film Festival in London (19 and 20 September). For ticket info