A Cal Poly Pomona alumnus premiered his first movie last month at the world-famous Cannes Film Festival in France.
Julian Flores (’11, political science) made a short film, “Bajo el Cielo,” that was shown at the festival on May 23. It is a fictional story about a hard-working family man who gets dragged into the drug cartel violence in Mexico and killed.
Flores was moved to make the short film after seeing how Mexican drug cartels carried out brutal murders that were recorded on video and posted on the Internet.
“How can any human being be capable of such actions? Why would any human being perform such brutality?” he asks. “Cartel member or not, no man or woman deserves to be murdered in cold blood.”
Flores decided to make the movie to illuminate a situation that many may refuse to acknowledge, possibly out of fear.
“The truth of the matter is that this is happening a few hundred miles south of us, and it is happening because of the billion-dollar industry that is the American illegal drug market,” he says. “My goal with this movie was to force the truth upon people. Controversy creates conversation.”
Flores wrote the screenplay and shot, directed and produced the 12-minute video for less than $1,000. Since he didn’t know any professional actors, he recruited fellow employees from the Pasadena restaurant where he worked and his younger brother to play roles in the film.
Part of the film was shot in his backyard in one night. Flores also spent three days in Mexico shooting additional scenes. He edited the film with his father’s help and worked on the sound and music with his girlfriend’s uncle.
Once done, he submitted it to the Art Center College of Design in Pasadena, where he had applied for the master’s in film program, and the Cannes Film Festival’s Short Film Corner.
Weeks later, Flores found out that the Art Center had accepted him into the master’s program and that Cannes had chosen to present the world premiere of his film. He flew to France for the premiere.
Although the film was not up for an award, it did spark a reaction among its viewers.
“The viewers are gripped with fear, and they recognize that they didn’t know these kinds of crimes were being committed every day,” Flores says. “I had producers tell me that they would like to expand the story, because the way that I showed cartel violence was different from the way that Hollywood portrays organized crime.”
Not bad for someone who wasn’t originally set on becoming a filmmaker. When Flores was at Cal Poly Pomona, he was planning to become a lawyer. But he realized after graduating in 2011 that he wasn’t passionate about the law.
Instead, he had an epiphany that he had wanted to become a filmmaker ever since he was a child. But it was a dream that he had repressed because his parents had other hopes for him.
Although they worried for him, Flores’ parents supported his decision to pursue a filmmaking career. He began investing in equipment and had shot his first short movie by summer 2013.
Flores, who aspires to become a master filmmaker like Akira Kurosawa, Stanley Kubrick or Martin Scorsese, plans to show his movie at different festivals before uploading it to Vimeo and YouTube.
“I want to change the current movie landscape and revolt against the contemporary by making fearless, philosophical films with controversial stories that analyze the dynamics of human nature, from the basest to the highest.”