project has entered in our festival. What is your project about?
First, I want to
express my gratitude for the wonderful opportunity that represents my
acceptance into your distinguished festival: I feel honored, and I am
celebrating this achievement with all my heart. I have a lot of beautiful
memories of the city of Cannes and the French Riviera: it was a piece of heaven
in the Earth. Precisely, the last year, I was blessed as the first Puerto Rican
to be selected as a finalist for the American Pavilion, in Cannes 2022. It is
fascinating to me share anecdotes about my first direction in animation
throughout our beautiful fairy tale Princëney. This beautiful multi-awarded
fairy tale is about a “Caribbean boy that begins a journey towards the
unimaginable to achieve his greatest wish: he just wants to be a prince”.
What are your ambitions with your project?
Since 2009, every time I create a new project, I get inspired in opening doors for Puerto Rico and the Caribbean at international festivals. I have been eligible for the Oscars on three consecutive occasions, whose consideration has allowed me to position our Island/Archipelago through stories of global impact and sociopolitical issues of relevance, in times of emerging changes and challenges. With Princëney, I wanted to be the first director, scriptwriter, and leading actor to propose an animated fairy tale with these characteristics: that the leading character, LGBTTQIA+ and Caribbean, be able to dream about the possibility of becoming a prince. I made a wink to the admired icon Walter Elias Disney, and it is important to mention that is the first IMBD project named creatively as “Princëney”.
Thanks to Heaven,
the short film was presented in the "Academy Screening Room" for its
consideration to the Oscars 2023 and was also screened at the Festival of the
Sea, in California. The Animated Short Film already has 8 international awards
(Best Animation Direction, Best Animated Short Film, Best LGBTT Short Film,
Best Original Short Film, Best Composition, among others), two honorable
mentions (Second place), 4 finalist selections and 20 international laurels, in
three months of trajectory in festivals. The sum of all its parts (script,
animation, acting, sound design, composing, video images, photography, and
editing) constitute a very solid concept that I have been working intensely
since 2020: this magical formula positioned the project already in Italy,
Croatia, Switzerland, London, Los Angeles, New York, without forgetting that
Princëney is just beginning the festival circuit. It will be screened in New
York Cinema in May 2023, and we are also celebrating this achievement.
With Princëney, we have established a precedent with a short film that proposes a new type of principality, in animation: now we are hoping that complementary companies such as Disney and Pixar, Core Animation Studios, Warner Brothers and others of great impact may be able to considerate the concept proposed through its narrative, at an evolving time that is in need of receptiveness about LGBTTQIA+ stories with substance and LGBTQIA+ leading roles. The ultimate task is not only include LGBTTQIA+ secondary characters or forced diversity stories in a film: we must be in harmony with the current reality and normalize that there is a world beyond heteronormativity. There is a World that is far beyond the traditional family constitution, also based on values and unconditional love, and it must be stated. While companies that I admire like Disney are taking a little time in recreating these particular stories in fairy tales, the precise year that Disney is celebrating their “100 years of magic” I decided to take a little first step by creating Princëney. I am sure that Walter Elias Disney, with his visionary mind, could have considered innovative ideas related to the new society, in the middle of 2023.
Tell us something about your shooting? What pleasantly surprised you?
I must say that I discovered a great
pleasure in directing voice actors for animation: although I have done
direction since 2009, this was barely new to me. Each tonality (and color) of
voice was considered in preproduction and the result speaks for itself: for
such purposes, I made a good selection of actors and actresses who, according
to their profiles, could not only perform the character, but also convey the
emotions that I had just visualized. I have discovered a wonderful universe in
animation direction and in leading roles as an animation actor, after my
valuable experiences with Life Action and Documentary direction. I must say
that, in all my projects, I have done a double duty as director and main
character. This represents a very interesting challenge that requires a lot of
effort and heart, but I love it.
in the midst of my last project 2HÖOM [zu: m]
and Princeney, I was surprised with two distinctions: the first Film Medal for
Film Directors awarded by the House of Representatives of Puerto Rico and I
also was the first Puerto Rican to receive the Leaders of America award, in
achievements in acting and directing). Recently, I was interviewed in
Croatia at a festival that was receiving, for the first time, a short film from
Puerto Rico, added to other relevant interviews in Italy, London and now in
Cannes. With a lot of effort, I exceed the amount of 100 laurels and prizes,
something that I would never have expected as a forever-emerging filmmaker.
There are many blessings, received in a short time and in uncertain times (before climate change aversive
effects in our Island, earthquakes, and the pandemic). In terms of my
new steps, I think I have discovered a great passion, particularly by directing
and starring in animated characters.
For what group of spectators is your film targeted?
“Princëney is a
short film for all audiences, particularly directed to those spectators that
believe in diversity and are not afraid of the transformations we are
confronting in a post-pandemic World”.
Why should distributors buy your film?
Rather than acquiring my short film, I think it could become a negotiation for a larger project (series or full film) at some point. If it does not materialize, it would inspire me to make it on my own or will create a different story, with the same fundamental bases.
How would you specify your work? What characterizes your film?
I work hardly to obtain the following characteristic in my films: a) have a well-defined identity, b) develop a creative scenario in essence, c) demonstrate originality and, most of all, d) that express all the heart that has been put into them. They are conceptual, with endings worthy of discussion and with the invitation to see them on more than one occasion to find symbolic elements, patterns, and passageways. I have had the opportunity to create hybrids (Life Action-Animation & Documentary-Life Action) and that has been one of my hallmarks. I must say that I am not governed by specific categories or formalisms, but I really loved to direct animation.
did you decided to become a filmmaker?
I decided to be a filmmaker because I love acting and social causes. I know that it represents a universal platform to position stories with a global impact and social awareness. I am a clinical psychologist, a new specialist in politics and governance, as well as a leading actor and independent filmmaker, for which I recognize the value of the seventh art as a tool for social transformation, collective healing, and equality. The pandemic was fundamental in this task: how many doctors, psychologists and other health professionals had to appeal to platforms like Netflix, Roku, among others, to be able to recharge their batteries in their little leisure time and be able to continue their life mission, particularly during confinement? Much more than we think.
your role model?
Even though I have had the opportunity and blessing to meet several international and national directors and actors (including Guillermo del Toro, during Cannes 2020) for me it is a great mystery the lack of accessibility that often exists between emerging directors or actors and Hollywood actors and filmmakers. Some emerging directors and actors focus solely on studying a certain master of the seventh art or in acting, for years. When I ask myself about my role model, although I can mention some wonderful directors and actors, I can say with great assertiveness that I have chosen to trace my path and establish my identity both as an actor and director, without trying to emulate anyone; without forgetting to admire and celebrate the contribution of the great masters in acting and directing, but in a continuous search for my own tonality.
movies are your favorites? Why?
My favorite films? I updated my list. I must mention the following movies: “Todo sobre mi madre”, by Almodóvar; “Rojo amanecer”, by Jorge Fons; “Parasite”, by Bon Joong-Ho; Everything Everywhere All at Once, by Daniel Kwan and Daniel Scheinert. All these cult movies share a well-defined identity, an unexpected creative element that break patterns, and a admirable harmonization between all the creative elements that conforms the narrated story.
you look for inspiration for your films?
Most of the time, the idea that comes to my mind is accompanied by a title and a color: it appears at the least expected moment. I do not go looking for inspiration, because, for mysterious reasons, it always comes. Sometimes I dream complete movies, something that still surprises me. I believe that if you lead a life connected one hundred percent to your creative spirit and if you nourish your intellect and soul with great life experiences and knowledge, everything comes to your mind. Then, you must “print” it in the reality.
topics interest you the most?
I have always been interested in issues of global impact and of a social nature. Stories of the marginalized have always been my priority: from directing stories and representing a leading actor with HIV/AIDS (2HÖOM [zu: m], 2020), a castaway man immersed in his delirium to find his nephew in the middle of a category V hurricane (One, 2018) and a Caribbean LGBTTQ candidate who aspires to be a prince (Princëney), all this challenges has required a formal process of preparation to obtain the best in acting and directing. In all my leading characters, I put my Puerto Rican and Caribbean essence. It is important to mention that there is a world beyond the distinguished actors Lin-Manuel Miranda, Rita Moreno, among other great icons that represent our country in USA: that is my ultimate goal in the Seventh Art, that the Academy of Motion Pictures Arts and Sciences, Cannes Film Festival, and other festivals of great international repercussion can learn more about the contribution and quality in the performance of our actors and actresses, particularly born and raised in Puerto Rico, the richness of our Island/Archipelago as a “locus amoenus”, as well as our potential to create stories with substance: specially, with our accent, in our language (Spanish), or even in English or “dual language”.
you consider your greatest achievement in your career?
My greatest achievement in my career as an independent filmmaker (since 2009) and actor (since 2001) has been enjoying every step, without expectations, and always linked to significant beings. My goal has never been to win an Oscar, but it was that Puerto Rico can be mentioned into the Academy and it happened in three consecutive times, in this century; to let Cannes know that we exist in the Seventh Art, particularly cinema that values diversity; that continents like Africa and countries like Belarus knew about the thousands of lives lost and battles won after Category V Hurricane María (with repercussions in the United Kingdom with two nominations for the Earthshot Award, initiative of Prince William). In this precise moment of our history, I dream that Disney, Pixar, Core Animation, Marvel and other companies can discover the particularities of Princëney: the very first Caribbean and LGBTTQIA+ leading actor in animation that wants to become a prince already exist, stablishing a precedent in IMDB with his particular name: Princëney.
It is a great honor that my short films have been welcomed by academics from Yale, University of Michigan, New York University and George Washington University. Also, I have learned that the art has space for everyone, is transformative, and contribute to the healing processes of the World: this is a special gift that I have received from the Seventh Art.
you consider most important about filming?
The most important thing in the filming process is to follow the pathway of each project with humility: to recognize that each creative piece that conforms a project is valuable. In terms of Princëney, the animator Jorge Caceres as well as the composers Daniele Carretta and Rafael Fernández are names that I will never forget: their contribution is immense.
film technique of shooting do you consider the best?
I love the integration of various techniques. I also love hybrid projects, as well as creativity and innovation as the perfect substitute of millionaire funds. The best filming technique will be established by each project; it would be discovered within the essence of each story.
you rate/What is your opinion about current filmmaking?
I consider that filming, in post-pandemic times, is laudable. When a film is positioned and screened in a theater, I celebrate it, because I know what it costs to achieve it and I like to support as many upcoming films as I can. In terms of innovations, in 2023, I must say that I do not resist to new technologies, and I admire who innovate, as James Cameron done in Avatar I and II. In terms of independent filmmaking, I understand that more can be done with less: cellphones are magical during these days. Lighting, more than being a special requirement in films, it must prevail in the mind and spirit of the director. There is no technology that can substitute this ability.
disappoint you in a movie?
I have to mention plagiarism, definitely: it is important to distinguish between a well-defined reference (or intertext) and a plagiarism.
supports you in your film career?
In terms of production and budget, I feel lucky to have colleagues and friends who have believed in my work, as well as my family (without forgetting my pocket). None have questioned whether the project will be born or not, or have had any economic expectations, since they recognize that each project contributes for a subsequent one and that the ultimate goal is to create social projects and represent our country. The national and international media have been very receptive to my work, I will never forget this blessing. Also, I can forget the entourage of actors and actresses, composers, creative talents and other allies that trust and support my work during these years (2009-2023). Although I have not had a national or international subsidy, it was not necessary during all these last 14 years: without this economic benefit, the words Academy, Oscars and Cannes are part of my resume and, in due course, the right doors will arrive. I trust in God, la Virgen Guadalupana and the Angels, and I am open to the gifts of the Universe: the firmament is my greatest ally. It was a great honor to share this interview with all of you. Merci beaucoup pour tout, Cannes Film Awards Festival!
Princëney is a Caribbean boy that begins a journey towards the unimaginable to achieve his greatest wish: he just wants to be a prince.
© Cannes Film Awards 2020 - 2024