ARTIST OF THE MONTH

Maria Mealla

Bolivia

María arrived to San Francisco in the search of a career in Theater. However, the Bolivian-native’s destiny changed as life led her to follow a career in film.

 

Filming was of her interest as it reflects her personality. She labels herself as a big story-teller, passionate about mentoring people interested in learning. Part of this inspiration came while she lived in Spain for one year. Story-tellers on the streets and who gathered around monuments were always interesting characters to her.

 

The filming industry can be tedious. People need to prepare complex teams while looking constantly at the budget. Moreover, time is relative. Short films can take up several days or weeks being written, edited, prepared, filmed, and distributed. Fortunately, there are organizations that tackle these issues and offer an opportunity to entry-level filmmakers. María arrived at Scary Cow, a San Francisco based “film incubator” that offers a work-trade model, providing free labor, mentorship and free equipment. In exchange, Maria cooked Bolivian food for the workers– a treat workers would not otherwise be able to have as Bolivian restaurants in San Francisco aren’t exactly everywhere.

 

 

Maria has accomplished short and long films. Her first short films, according to her, were “not the best”. However, experience is essential in any discipline. Her first long film was “Mujeres y Cigarrillos”, a Romantic Comedy which took 16 days to be filmed. However, she decided to avoid publishing it. During the time she was preparing this film, she was working in a non-profit that supported kids that left their homes, either by domestic violence or poverty. Mujeres y Cigarrillos portrayed this situation in a humorous/romantic scheme. As María recalls, “This kind of situation can not be romanticized”.

 

Inspiration can come from anywhere. María told LatinSF about one of her most memorable short films. Two girls shared a winning lottery ticket. The $500 reward was accorded to go to one of them. However, the outcome twisted as the other girl wanted her half. The inspiration of the plot came to María by a story from a corner shop worker. An acquaintance won $500 dollars from a lottery ticket and decided to spend the whole reward on buying $500 worth on lottery tickets. He didn’t win again. 500 dollars is not a small amount of money, but it is not enough to think big either. “People try to do something special. Instead of enjoying the reward, they get stressed.”

 

María is ready to present her latest film: “Bring me an Avocado”. This film, 99 minutes long, will be premiered at the San Francisco Latin Film Festival. The idea of “Bring me an Avocado” started as part-time writing in 2014 and was filmed in 12 days during May of 2018. The project was rewritten 20 times. Furthermore, the production team consisted of 22 people with 5 cast members. The plot is about the mindset “duel” of an average family as the mother gets into a coma. The story surrounds the challenges of George and her 2 daughters, among others, on pursuing a normal life while suffering the fate of their beloved. This film has a special meaning for María. Her mother got sick in 2014. The characters in the film have “pieces” of her and her family. María wanted to explore how individuals reacted to her mother’s sickness.

 

 

Bring me an Avocado has a deep moral on human mortality “We all have this idea about how a fulfilling life ends in our elderly years. A successful life is about having a career, family, and pass away surrounded by your beloved ones… – María expressed – “…truth spoken, the majority of us die along the road, either by a disease or an accident. In the end, we are not immune to cancer, dementia… these inevitable things. For me, it was about exploring people’s reaction when death come across their paths”.

 

Apart from her filming skills, María is a Writer. She enjoys writing about Magic Realism. In fact, her next short film is very much Magic Realism. The plot happens in a world where Body Shops exist (coming soon, can’t spoil). Furthermore, part of her work is inspired by Isabel Allende (She recommends “Cuentos de Eva Luna”) and Gabriel García Márquez, among others.
This passion for writing and inspiring was reaffirmed as she got engaged. Her husband, a Boston-native, is a Graphic Novelist focused on satire and dark humor. The couple constantly goes around Coffee shops to enjoy a “writing date”.

 

Creating a film is complex. The production demands discipline and commitment. Fortunately, people tend to give the best they can offer. As María recalls, “People take their art pretty seriously, either by preparing the make-up, the production, their acting, or anything involved in the project”.

 

We hope that you will attend the San Francisco Latino Film festival and see “Bring me an Avocado” on closing night, Sunday September 29th at the Opera Plaza Cinema.