Contrapelo’s Writer/director Gareth Dunnet Alcocer was visiting his mother in Queretaro, Mexico when he learned that his project had been shortlisted for an Oscar® nomination. On Friday, January 14th, he finds out from the Academy of Motion Pictures Arts & Sciences if Contrapelo will be one of the five nominees that will be able to tag on “Oscar nominated” to their name.
At ten years of age Alcocer read the book that would inspire the Contrapelo, Lather and Nothing Else by Hernando Tellez. It would simmer in his consciousness until long after watching Ridley Scott’s Alien and Alejandro González Iñárritu’s Amores Perros, the films which inspired him to change career paths from law school to film school. Two years ago, after graduating from AFI he began production on his short Contrapelo.
Alcocer took the story of Lather and Nothing Else and adapted it into the culture of the “Narco Traficante” which he grew up watching as it insidiously permeated his Mexico. Contrapelo is the story of a proud Mexican barber who is forced to shave the leader of a drug cartel. As he faces the man who is destroying his country, he is confronted by a difficult decision: to become a killer, or to let this man continue to kill. By the end of the shave, the Barber will find out that he and the Capo are not very different.
His crew for Contrapelo are mostly filmmakers he met, and has worked with at AFI. He also credits AFI for being instrumental in the development of Contrapelo and lending their facilities and sound stage during production. Post production monies was raised through Kickstarter. In casting the short, Alcocer relied on personal connection with the actors and images of people he grew up with. His two leads Arturo Bonilla (Barber) and Eduardo Roman (Drug lord), were cast in the AFI workshop, reprising their powerful performances in the short, which has been seen in over 24 film festivals around the world, having won Best Short Film at twelve of those festivals.
Alcocer caught lighting in a bottle.
Contrapelo’s first festival showing was at the Tribeca Film Festival and it was the defining moment of a young boy’s dream to be given a badge with his name and “Filmmaker” underneath. “It was amazing to be included at such a prestigious film festival and great to be in New York for my very first time,” Alcocer recounts.
Then he met Linda Olszewski who was serving as President of the Jury at the Monterrey International Film Festival where Contrapelo won Best Film. It was a given that Contrapelo would qualify and be submitted to AMPAS for an Oscar nomination if she had anything to say about it.
Linda Campos Olszewski affectionately known in the entertainment industry as “Linda O” heads up the Shorts International’s Acquisitions, Sales & Programming division. Shorts International four-walled Contrapelo for a week, qualifying them to submit to AMPAS. She has been guiding Alcocer throughout the whole process, who calls her the film’s “guardian angel”.
“When you work hard luck tends to favor you,” Alcocer said earnestly. It’s been a thrilling ride and a testament to the talents of the actors and creatives involved in breathing life into Contrapelo. On January 14th we will find out if their hard work pay off even further as one of the five Best Short Film nominees vying for an Oscar on February 28th.
The lead actors speak on working on Contrapelo:
Art Bonilla (The Barber)
In 30 years of working in film and television, It is rewarding to finally get to play a role like this. The accolades and recognition I have gotten from my peers have been overwhelming. For an actor that mean a lot. It was a pleasure to work with Gareth and see how all the element to the film came together. From the set design, to the DP, the talent, and production crew, we all worked so well together, and had a great time making this film.
It was kismet. One of the amazing things that happened was when the production designer Aashrita Kamagh was showing me the one picture of a barber shop which they were using to for our set. It selected by Gareth from over 100 pictures of Mexican barber shops they photographed and it turned out to be a picture of my own father-in-laws barber shop in downtown Mazatlan, Mexico! It was meant to be.
Eduardo Roman (The Drug Lord)
Gareth is truly an Actor’s Director. I remember when I first auditioned for the role I had everything prepared. I was feeling very confident about going through the audition process. I arrived to AFI and as soon as Gareth comes out of the audition room to let me in, he greeted me and immediately started talking about the project before entering the audition room.
I just remember wanting to book that part even more than I had before I was thinking “I gotta work with this guy”. After booking the part, Gareth gave me copies of Proceso magazines with interviews of drug dealers in jail. I did my homework, read them and then together we talked about them and what elements of these real life characters we could bring in to our druglord in Contrapelo. All this previous homework we did together really helped out for a smooth process during the shooting of the film. Gareth is also really great in hearing everyone’s ideas and possible contributions. It was truly team work.