Gael Garcia Bernal faces off against Jeffrey Dean Morgan in the trailer for Jonás Cuarón’s Desierto
Known to many for his screenwriting work alongside his father on 2013’s Gravity, Jonás Cuarón is gearing up to release his sophomore directorial feature with the upcoming Desierto. Starring Gael Garcia Bernal and Jeffrey Dean Morgan, Desierto is set to hit theaters March 4, 2016 through STX Entertainment and has today released a trailer that you can take a look at in the player below!
What begins as a hopeful journey to seek a better life becomes a harrowing and primal fight for survival when a deranged, rifle-toting vigilante (Morgan) chases a group of unarmed men and women through the treacherous U.S.-Mexican border. In the harsh, unforgiving desert terrain, the odds are stacked firmly against them as they continuously discover there’s nowhere to hide from the unrelenting, merciless killer.
“As a theme, it’s been over seven years,” Jonás Cuarón told ComingSoon.net in a conversation about Desierto this week. “I was traveling with my brother through Arizona. In Tucson, we went to the consulate. They invited us. They told us some pretty horrific stories from around that time. It was later that year or a couple of years later that the Arizona laws started to happen. Thematically, I’ve been interested in these things for several years now. It was five or six years ago that I started knowing the best way to tell this story. I wrote an early draft of the movie, which then led to me and my dad having conversations that led to ‘Gravity.’ But the themes were something that I have wanted to explore for many years now.”
As was the case with Gravity, Desierto balances an art house aesthetic with visceral terror, delivering a slasher film that also offers some real world commentary.
“In ‘Gravity,’ we were lucky to be able to make the horror and the drive be nature itself,” Cuarón continues. “When you start exploring themes like I was exploring in ‘Desierto,’ the horror becomes more down to Earth and, in that sense, more horrific… The main theme I wanted to explore with the movie… is that [society] winds up developing a rhetoric of hatred. Politicians use it all the time because it’s an easy scapegoat to point hatred towards people. You develop that rhetoric both in media and in political speeches and that rhetoric ends up falling on people that are not having a great time. They’re poor and their situations are not perfect. People in situations like that have the wrong rhetoric thrown at them. Sometimes it pushes us to our dark side.”
On one side of Desierto‘s story is Bernal’s Moises, a Mexican immigrant desperate to get back to his family in the United States.
“I knew from when I started writing the script I wanted to work with Gael,” says Cuarón, “For several reasons. One was that I knew from my experiences with ‘Gravity’ was that you need a really strong lead. There’s limited dialogue, so you need an actor that knows how to work without dialogue. Who can still pull the emotions of the audience. As a Mexican actor, he’s also one of the actors that I admire the most. As I kept doing research, I kept stumbling on many documentaries that Gael had done. Finally, I just knew it was important to have a star. A recognizable face. Migrants are people that — when the issue gets top vote in Europe or the US — it’s always ‘swarms.’ They’re not given a face. I wanted the face of a star that people could immediately relate to.”
Opposite Bernal is Morgan as Sam, an angry Arizona resident who doesn’t feel that the law is doing its part in stopping illegal immigration. He’s out along the border hunting rabbits with his German Shepherd and it doesn’t take a lot to push Sam over the line.
“Jeffrey could easily deliver the intensity,” Cuarón explains, “but there’s also a very human side to him. I mean, he’s a scary guy. He’s big and stuff, but there’s a very human side to him. It was important to me for Sam to not fall into a very flat villain. I wanted him to have emotions and Jeffrey is a guy who, even just in real life, is very emotional… There were many scenes that we developed for the movie that I knew we weren’t going to shoot because I wanted to keep everything in the present. They helped develop the sadness of Jeffrey’s character that he could portray in the moments he had.”
To help capture the proper intensity, Cuarón went out of his way to separate his stars during production.
“I shot them on separate days and I even intentionally placed them in different hotels,” Cuarón says. “I didn’t want them to be close to each other. When we shot their final scenes together, it was the last three days on set. I wanted them to discover each other at that point. By the time they’re together, they’ve both got their own emotions and that clash happens.”
Also starring Alondra Hidalgo, Desierto is written by Jonás Cuarón and Mateo García and is produced by Jonás Cuarón, Alfonso Cuarón, Carlos Cuarón, Alex García and Charles Gillibert.
What do you think of the Desierto trailer? Let us know in the comments below!