Álvaro Aponte-Centeno Finds Inspiration in Music for ‘Mi Santa Mirada’

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Puerto Rican director Álvaro Aponte-Centeno's new short film, "Mi Santa Mirada," delighted audiences at the Cannes Film Festival with its honest portrayal of a young man, who is tired of being a drug trafficking subordinate, and decides to betray his boss. Aponte-Centeno centers his film around a specific neighborhood where violence is rampant.

Aponte-Centeno is a musician at heart. He grew up with a musician father, and music plays a central role in all of his films. He got his start as a music video director, working for artists such as Tego Calderéon, Dávila 666, and Cultura Profética.

"The creation of 'Mi Santa Mirada,' gave me the chance to reconnect with my first artistic formation: music," he told Back Stage. "I wrote the music together with my father in order to create an atmosphere that accentuates the tension in different times of the story and to create a sense of mystery throughout the film."

Back Stage had the chance to sit down with Aponte-Centeno and discuss music, casting, and drug dealers.

What was your inspiration for "Mi Santa Mirada"?
Álvaro Aponte-Centeno: I went to the public school, and I met some guys who were dealers and into drugs. With time, I collected these stories and put them together to make a film.

How did you cast the film?
The casting was the most difficult thing because I really wanted a specific type of person for the characters, and I tried to find it in the neighborhood where the story took place. But I also took some actors from outside the capital. I really had to find specific actors because some people who were similar to the actors died or were in prison or were dealers so they couldn't do the roles. Another thing is the protagonist is now in prison. So, it makes it more authentic.

What's your background in filmmaking?
Aponte-Centeno: I started music studies because my father is a musician and my mother was in theater. I went to university to study communications, and I took some cinema lessons, but not a lot. Mainly, I learned cinema in the streets and [read] a lot.

What does it mean for you to be at Cannes?
Aponte-Centeno: It’s an honor to be selected out of 4,500 people who have been in the competition. And it's very special also because it's like a school. I can learn lots of things here. It's another way of learning cinema, meeting other directors, and seeing other masterpieces.

What's next for you?
I want to make my third short film and also develop two other concepts for feature films. The way I create my movies is a lot with music because even when I imagine the plans, I imagine with music.