Director Amat Escalante won the top directing prize at the 2013 Cannes Film Festival for his film Heli, which gave a disturbing glimpse into Mexico’s ongoing problem with drug cartels.

Amat Escalante On ‘Heli’

Putting the story together for Heli didn’t require Escalante to pore over research pertaining to drug cartels and their pervasive violence. In Mexico, the violent acts are common knowledge to anyone. “It was really not much investigating. There is nothing in the movie that anyone doesn’t know here in Mexico,” Escalante told uInterview in an exclusive video interview. “It is all known things and I tried to tell a story with this family and this character with these things happening to them here in Mexico.”

“You know, there’s a way we see the news and read newspapers. We just see these hanging bodies and decapitated heads,” Escalante added. “There is not much deepness in it, because also there is a lot of danger in the press, if they start to go in deep on the situation. So mostly it does the job, the cartels want it to do.”

The violence of the cartels has never been a secret; it was the depth of the problem and its consequences that Escalante was most eager to deliver onscreen. “I was more interesting in was to capture a situation, a human situation that I feel deserves to be told after one hundred thousand murders from the drug war,” he said. “That is where the motivation comes from I guess.”

About a year ago, Escalante says that militias made of average people – those tired of the carnage caused by the drug cartels and the government’s seeming inability to do anything to stop it – started forming in Mexico. Escalante sees the militias as a positive, a movement that could inspire the action from the government they’ve been waiting to see, the action the country needs for the sake of posterity – which is something Escalante tried to convey in Heli.

“[The militias] mean something and I hope it catches some momentum, and I hope something real happens from the government and politicians, so they can take care of the people,” Escalante told uInterview. “People have been quite abandoned for many years, more than eight years. I think that scene in the torture scene with the children; I feel that is what that scene is about, the abandonment of society of people and what they can reach when they are abandoned. I think it has to do with taking care of young people, at least so you know the future is a little bit better.”

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