"Remember your teachers, that teacher who inspired you to do something," says Adriana Barraza in a promotional video for the film The Last Wagon, her most recent film project, published through her Twitter account. She does remember them. He mentions Mrs. Lolita, his primary school teacher, who in a difficult moment knew how to reach out to him and give him affection. He also mentions director and producer Sergio Jimenez, who died in 2009, a "master of generations"; and Alejandro González Iñárritu, a master "within what work is" and whom he also considers a friend, since he gave her an opportunity first in Amores perros (2000) and later in Babel (2006), a film that earned her 21 nominations, including best supporting actress at the Golden Globes and the Oscars.
Following her most recent role as the teacher Georgina in The Last Wagon, by Mexican director Ernesto Contreras, Barraza (Toluca, 67 years old) does not hesitate to show her gratitude after getting into a character that moved her from reading the script. "I finished reading and cried. Tears don't mean anything, huh? Because it is very easy to buy your droplets and pretend that you cry. No. It's a truly beautiful story, told in a way without melodramatic traps. Ernesto has a point of view to make his films that I like a lot. You can talk about very hard topics. It treats its characters as beings that, in addition to vices, have a very important human part," the actress tells EL PAÍS.
The new film by Contreras, who won the award for best dramatic film at Sundance for Dream in Another Language (2017), features little Ikal and his family, who live on a railroad that travels across the country. At his last stop, Ikal meets Chico, a rebellious boy; Valeria, a very intelligent girl; Tuerto, another boy who is part of the railway community, and Quetzal, a dog without breed who chooses him as his new owner. The four friends are students of Georgina, an unwavering teacher who does everything for her students with the little she has. Together they will make Ikal, for the first time, feel that he belongs to a place.
The Last Wagon is the film adaptation of the homonymous novel by Ángeles Doñate, whose original text finds inspiration in the case of a Mexican teacher who taught in a school car. The school wagons are a remnant of the golden age of the national railway network, back in the twenties of the last century. These schools gave educational assistance mainly to the children of workers who, like Ikal, were forced to travel throughout the Republic. "From the hand of Ernesto I found that Georgina has enough of what I am as a teacher. Discipline, but also a very loving part and, something that is very important, optimism for the future. It is a very optimistic film because it speaks very well of this possibility that the human being has to choose in the best way, "he adds.
Inspired by Konstantin Stanislavski, Barraza, who studied for two years at the Faculty of Chemical Sciences until she changed her career for acting – her true vocation since the age of 15 – takes a derivation of the teachings of the Russian pedagogue, who teaches as an acting teacher and uses for her roles what she calls "resorting to the knowledge of the human heart". "Any experience of the human being is within one, because in addition to having lived, one watches movies, sees situations go through an aunt, a grandmother, a friend, you went to an exhibition and looked at a painting that inspired you. All that accumulation of experiences make you start thinking about certain things. It's the knowledge of life that you have and that's what I use in this case."
Mexican actress Adriana Barraza during a fragment of the film 'El Último Vagón'. Alejandro López Pineda (Netflix / EFE)
Barraza, with a career of more than 60 projects between film, television and theater in Mexico, the United States and Europe, does not consider that there is a small role. It is not a limitation if it is a leading role, co-star or secondary, on the contrary, she looks at empathy with the character and what she contributes, even if it is minimal, to the big picture of the story. It was this philosophy of work that led her to share the bill with actors such as Sylvester Stallone, Robert Duvall or work with Guillermo del Toro or Sam Raimi. At 67 years old, work is not lacking and her age has not been a limitation as for other fellow actresses who are typecast in certain roles or who no longer consider them suitable for certain roles.
"I see this situation with a lot of pain. I remember when I was with the Oscar nomination, I read that Judi Dench said with great sadness that there was no work for her anymore. I said 'Wow! What awaits me if a great one like Judy Dench lacks work?' Fortunately, I can say that I have not lacked, but obviously I recognize that it is very hard that actresses are typecast and that there is no work after a certain age, "says Barraza.
With the leap to Hollywood and other international markets that he made after his participation in Babel 17 years ago, he has seen with joy that other actors such as Tenoch Huerta or Pedro Pascal have been able to take this important step, in addition to leading roles and important productions, such as Black Panther: Wakand Foreveror The Last of Us , respectively, and that the stereotypical roles that placed Latina actors and actresses as delinquents, gardeners or domestic workers have been partially set aside.
He gives as an example the case of Blue Beetle, the DC superhero film —another of his upcoming projects—, which has a large Mexican ensemble or of Mexican descent, such as Xolo Maridueña, Elpidia Carrillo, George López or Damián Alcázar. "This was requested by the director [Ángel Manuel Soto] and obviously also Warner, when it comes to Jaime Reyes, who is the Blue Beetle. I think that there are many paradigms that have been broken and others that have not yet been and that work is being done for it, "he says.
Barraza had a full agenda. While he doesn't want to stop working, keeping a lot of energy and spirit, he says the passion is still 100%, but he feels the energy isn't the same. "I get tired. Many things hurt in my body no matter how much I diet, exercise. I try not to finish everything quickly, but to manage things better, "as she admits, that is why she is more selective with her roles, but even so, as she said before, she does not consider that there are small roles.
Adriana Barraza at the St. Regis Hotel in Mexico City on May 24. Aggi Garduño
Another example of this is his participation in the short film El tesoro. This production, a tribute to the mothers seekers —directed by David Rodríguez Estrada—, will premiere the first week of June first at the Los Angeles International Latino Film Festival and later at the Guadalajara International Film Festival. "It's a topic that I wanted to touch, to talk about the mother seekers in Mexico especially. The short film is much more difficult than a movie because you have to say something forcefully in a very short time. It is not the same to give a three-hour speech than a 15-minute one. David, who is very talented, found an extremely talented and creative way to talk about this issue derived from violence and that has affected our country for a long time," says the actress.
Barraza also has a supporting role in the film Monica, opposite Patricia Clarkson, abouta trans woman who finds herself at a vital crossroads. Her boyfriend wants to leave her, and she is forced to return home to care for her terminally ill mother, whom she hasn't seen since she was a child. The film is in theaters in the U.S., but the actress hopes it can soon find distribution in Mexico.
For now, Barraza will put a stop to his work schedule in June to be able to spend time with his family, but it will not be for long, since in July he returns to the ring with new projects. Having overcome cancer and having survived two heart attacks have taught him to "relax a little", but with more than 50 years of work the desire to do things is not taken away. "We have to be with the family as much as we can. Change the perspective of life with age, do not think not, sometimes not even diseases as serious as cancer, which does change it, of course, but age is what tells you I think you have to stop a little here and also be more together with those we love, " Ends.
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