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The Daily Wildcat

The Daily Wildcat


    Mexican director finds humor in tragedy

    The movie “”Cinco días sin Nora”” (“”Nora’s Will””) makes its Arizona premiere Saturday at Tucson Cine Mexico 2010.

    It marks Mariana Chenillo’s first feature film as director and screenwriter. Its story begins when José (Fernando Lujan) learns that Nora (Silvia Mariscal), the woman he was married to for 30 years before divorcing, has committed suicide a few days before Passover. Forced to wait five days for the funeral so that his son can arrive and the rabbi’s schedule can free up, José discovers that Nora left all of the food for a Passover dinner ready in her refrigerator. But Nora also left something else, a curious photograph that may unlock the mystery of her life and death for the family she left behind.

    The film was shot in 2007 and 2008, and it premiered at the 2008 Morelia International Film Festival in Mexico, where it won the audience award for best feature film. It made its North American debut at the Miami International Film Festival in March 2009, where it won the audience award for best picture. The Arizona Daily Wildcat interviewed Chenillo over e-mail to discuss the film.

    You recently won Best Director at the Moscow Film Festival for this film. How does it feel to be recognized in a country so distant from your own?

    It is obviously an honor to be recognized by any jury, but most of all, it is an honor to be accepted by audiences from quite different cultures around the world. We have had very good acceptance in places as far as Japan, Russia, France, Spain or Argentina. Which only proves that very particular stories can also be universal.

    What about the Jewish faith attracted you to writing a film so heavily dependent on Passover?

    This story occurs within a very specific context, which is the Jewish context I grew up in. The truth is I did not want to talk about religion. I wanted to tell the story of my grandparents, and of how my character did not want to participate in any part of Nora’s plan. Therefore, the religious context allowed me to go deeper into Jose’s discontent and also gave the humorous part of the story many possibilities.

    “”Cinco días sin Nora”” was recently nominated for 11 Ariel awards (the Mexican version of an Oscar). How does that feel?

    Being this one (is) my first film, I am very happy to be considered among the Mexican best films of 2009. It was a big surprise to have so many nominations. I am also very happy for my actors and crew, who deserve the nominations very much.

    How does tragedy inspire comedy in your work?

    They can’t be separated. I think that humor is a tool that allows us to speak deeply about painful events without being solemn. I believe that characters in comedies can have as much depth as in more dramatic films.

    What do you hope that Mexican-American audiences will get out of “”Cinco días sin Nora””?

    Although this is not a typical Mexican family, but a very particular one, I think that the film portraits contemporary Mexico in many ways. The way in which we understand death and how we continue to make dead family members part of daily lives is something that will surely be understood by the Mexican American audience.

    What do you hope that American audiences will get out of “”Cinco días sin Nora””?

    All in all, this is a love story that could happen anywhere in the world. So I think there is a quite universal part of it that can be enjoyed by audiences all around.

    Mariana Chenillo will appear at the Arizona premiere of “”Cinco días sin Nora”” on Saturday, 6 p.m. at Harkins Tucson Spectrum 18, 5455 South Calle Santa Cruz. For more information, visit

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