Lorenzo Vigas did not want to become a filmmaker. Born in Venezuela in 1967, Vigas was pursuing a master’s degree in molecular biology when he decided to move to New York and attend filmmaking workshops at New York University. This pivot paid off and Vigas is now a celebrated filmmaker, premiering films at Cannes and the Venice Film Festival, where he won the Golden Lion for his directorial debut. From afar.
His last movie, The boxserves as a conclusion to his Latin American fatherhood-themed trilogy, which began with his 2004 short Elephants never forget and continued with From afar. The box tells the story of a young teenager traveling to northern Mexico to retrieve his father’s remains from a mass grave. But, as he returns home, he meets a man whom he is convinced could in fact be his father. He gets involved in the life of the man and is drawn into the abusive recruitment of factory workers in Mexico, mixing a coming-of-age story with real-life, high-stakes implications.
“This last chapter is mostly about the consequences for young teenagers of not having had a father at home,” Vigas told A.frame. “How do we go through life trying to replace the father figure. this is the reality for millions of young people in Latin America who are raised without a father.”
Vigas went to great lengths not only with the story of a young man in search of fatherhood, but also with the harsh reality of factory work in Mexico. “It’s the first Mexican fiction film to be able to be shot inside an active, working factory,” he explains. “The factories located in Ciudad Juarez are very protective of their production processes and do not allow access to anyone with a camera. After a long research process (more than a year), we managed to shoot one of the film’s most important scenes inside a working maquiladora. That kind of pressure can either be paralyzing or an opportunity to push you to your limits.”
The box is Venezuela’s official submission for the 2023 Oscars, and Vigas hopes the story will resonate with audiences. “We all have a locked box at home. A box that weighs on our shoulders when we go out into the street. Some are able to open this box, take out the heavy things that are inside, others never dare to open it and wear it for the rest of their lives. The box is about that box we all have at home,” says Vigas.
Below, Vigas shares with A.frame the five films that influence how he approaches emotion in film and found self-reflection in filmmaking.