From Spanish to English, there is no exact translation for “el desamor,” but according to Full Sail Film grad Renier Elvir, the closest literal meaning is “to fall out of love.” The film of the same name that he wrote and directed for the 35mm Final Project course in late 2012, explores that concept closely. Inspired by Mexican tradition, the quiet, black-and-white El Desamor is set in 1940s Mexico and tells the story of a man who asks the spirit of death to help him say goodbye to his wife.
“I was part of a short film contest representing my school in Mexico, and we had to write a script showing something about Mexico’s culture,” says Renier. “The concept of El Desamor started from there, from thinking that love could be oppression as well. The whole idea of Agustin [the main character] struggling to say goodbye to his wife evokes giving someone back his freedom. That’s why at the end of the film, the credits read, ‘Letting a loved one go is the most difficult thing in life.'”
The film was shot entirely in Spanish (although it has subtitles), which was a challenge for Renier and his crew. Only three students on the crew spoke Spanish, so Renier enlisted the help of other Hispanic students to assist with the shoot. (But he also wrote the script in English for non-Spanish speaking crew and faculty.) It was also a challenge to find actors and extras that spoke with a Mexican-Spanish accent, and to design a set that was true and authentic to 1940s Mexico.
“My mom helped us out by hand-making the entire wardrobe for the female extras,” says Renier. “They were the most complicated ones.”
El Desamor was filmed over the course of four days, both on Full Sail’s soundstages and on location at a local Mexican restaurant. The film’s eerie cantina and living room scenes – according to Film Department Lab Specialist and the project’s Production Supervisor Lance Gray – required a lot of hard work from the crew.
“To get that smoky look you see in the film, you have to shut all of the AC down,” says Lance. “So with all of the lighting, it gets super hot, into the upper ’90s. That requires a lot of work from the makeup department to keep the continuity of the heavy makeup that was worn by the actors. Those guys were in there for two days just sweating.”
The finished product was well worth the heat. El Desamor is a 10-minute glimpse into a fascinating aspect of Mexican culture that manages to be both mysterious and bittersweet at the same time. “They were a really small, tight-knit crew with a lot of talent between them,” says Lance. “I think [the film] is beautiful to look at. It’s a good story and even with Spanish dialogue, it’s fairly easy to follow.”
Renier is currently living in Miami, where he is completing Full Sail’s online Creative Writing MFA program, taking acting workshops, and working with a non-profit film organization to produce another short.
“As one MFA instructor told me a few months ago, ‘Do you want to be one of 1,000 people that say I want to be a director, or do you want to be one of the few dozen that can say I AM a director?'” says Renier. “I’m working hard to achieve my dreams.”