A Story About a Poet’s obsession with an Unrequited Love and Death
It was 4 years ago, when Ecuadorian actor and producer Julio Ortega would live his dream to produce the off-Broadway show titled “Medardo, con el Alma en los Labios,” a story about the mysterious life and death of Ecuadorian Poet Medardo Angel Silva. The success of Ortega’s play brought plenty of positive recognition from the public including several Latin ACE Awards which truly highlighted the impact this theatrical performance had on everyone who was intrigued by Medardo’s story.
Two years after the debut of his off-Broadway production, Ortega would team up with Director Nitsy Grau, and bring the young Ecuadorian poet’s story to the big screen. The inspiration Medardo sparked in everyone is what motivated the cast and crew to push through the production and make this film absolutely phenomenal. Grau and Ortega shared the experiences faced during the making of ‘Medardo’ and what it was like for them to have gone through the making of an incredible production.
Medardo Angel Silva: A Young Writer and His Inner Struggles
Medardo Angel Silva, an Ecuadorian Poet who was a member of the “Decapitated Generation” during the first decades of the 20th century, is considered to be a major representation of modernism in Ecuadorian poetry. Although his talent was overseen at first by many, his writings began to gain recognition and only two of his famous works (Maria Jesus y El árbol del bien y el mal) have been published. The young poet’s melancholy expression and obsession with death was demonstrated through his poetry. At 21 years old, Silva took his own life under mysterious circumstances. According to publications, Silva had gone to visit Rosa Amada Villegas, a young woman he had been in love with for a very long time before committing suicide. A story with an inconclusive ending has led many to question what the young poet was going through all those years. All these questions, inspired Ortega and Grau, to investigate and tell Silva’s story from the poet’s very own point of view.
Actor and Producer Julio Ortega in his lead role as Medardo Angel Silva
Photo Taken By: Andrés Buitrago
Medardo’s Story Inspired Ortega and Grau In Fascinating Ways
Everyone knows that inspiration leads to passion and purpose. Ortega has always been intrigued by this character and the way he viewed the world around him. “I was always attracted to this character for his mystery and the circumstances of his death. [Even] everything he wrote about came true… Medardo is a character who will never cease to surprise me,” expressed Ortega. With his passion already creating energy to begin this journey, director Grau was also moved by the young poet’s life. “His story was touching… a young poet living in poverty with exceptional talent, but attracted to death and to an unrequited love that would lead to his final blow,” said Grau. Both Grau and Ortega had a very important purpose when they joined forces to share Silva’s story. “My objective was to tell the story from the subjectivity of the character,” said Grau, “If Medardo was melancholy, the streets were wet and dark. The character would sometimes see death as beautiful, sexy, and sometimes old,” added Grau. Although it was a difficult task for the director, she tried to make the poet’s spirit present in the film while Ortega also shared a similar vision of wanting to spread Medardo’s story to other parts of the world.
Ortega as Medardo Angel Silva with Actress Edna Lee Figueroa in her role as “La Muerte” (Death)
Photo Taken By: Andrés Buitrago
The Process of Growing a Team and Collaborating as One
For Ortega and Grau, growing the team came naturally. “The team was built in the process. Some were already in the group, others came or left. In the end we formed a group of people who pushed hard towards the same direction,” expressed Grau. The entire cast and crew’s effort to make a film that demonstrated their passion for the character’s story, is what kept them closely connected. As director and producer, their genuine respect for each other allowed them to accept each others creative freedom during the making of the film. “Julio really let me do my own thing. I was in charge of the scenes… the acting… and he was responsible for making sure the production was going in the right direction,” said Grau, “I believe the key is to realize who pertains to what field. Julio counted with a really great group in production who supported him,” added Grau. Ortega also shared the experience of what it was like recruiting the cast who would make this film come to life. “Half of the cast came from New York and Guayaquil, I have a profound love for actors in theater, and I believe they need an opportunity to work in film and television,” said Ortega, “I’m always observing the theater to bring actors in for future projects,” added Ortega. In an effort of making the collaboration positively effective, Ortega listened and respected Grau’s desire to work independently. “There were moments that needed to be discussed regarding the characters or the script, and that hurt me because I felt as if they were literally cutting me open, but in the end it was all for the best of the entire production,” expressed Ortega.
Director Nitsy Grau (far right) shooting a scene with actress Fátima Mayorga (far left) in her role as Rosita Amada. Photo Taken by: Andrés Buitrago
Pushing Through The Difficulties During Production
While the film was already in process, they both admitted running into some difficulties along the way, causing concern during production. Trying to recreate the story’s setting to capture the beautiful atmosphere of the early 1900’s was challenging. “We intended getting close to the sounds and visuals of the year 1919 in a loud and crowded city. We filmed in touristic locations… everyone wanted to dance and take pictures when we needed silence,” said Grau. The crew used traditional techniques to close down streets and stop traffic in order to continue filming their scenes. Grau admitted that making decisions was grueling in her position as director. “Between choosing the colors, right textures, the actors, locations, and the most important part of a scene, a director is always in doubt, but will pretend to be sure of themselves,” said Grau. Other difficulties happened while shooting a scene outside of a cemetery in Guayaquil. Everything the cast and crew could think of went wrong and unfortunately brought a temporary stop to filming for the evening. “We had a scene to act out and everything happened. It rained, the light went out, and some people even left the team. We could not film,” explained Grau. It was believed that Silva’s soul haunted everyone that night, preventing them all from getting anything done, but Grau considers this to be a mere superstition. Despite having to rise above the challenges on days which seemed very unpredictable, everyone was able to pull through production with patience and a shared obsession of making Silva’s story a reality.
The film crew working together during production
Photo taken by: Carla Navas
A Successful Turnout Grau and Ortega Weren’t Searching For
Some believe that if you go looking for success its start becoming a habit but for Ortega and Grau, success was the last thing on their minds. Both began this project for the love of film and this young poet’s story. Success would later have them surprised and content. Grau didn’t take her position as director of the film only thinking about reaching triumph. “I did not work thinking about success. I worked thinking about finishing up production each day and making sure the scenes came out the way I had imagined them to be. The premiere of this film surprised me,” expressed Grau. The movie, which premiered in NYC, left Grau in a state of relief when hearing about everyone’s enjoyment of the film. Her greatest strength was working with the cast and watching their different interpretations of each character. Helping the actors with their techniques was a complicated task which made her even stronger knowing the cast confided in the entire process. Ortega, after finally living his dream in capturing the young writers story through film, admitted that the “love” all members had for ‘Medardo’ is what made the project, “a success, which is seen, read, and felt.” Both Grau and Ortega show gratitude for having worked with an amazing team on a project they never thought would make it this far. Today, Ortega is more prepared than ever before to produce another film and is currently finishing his studies in Journalism while working on the next script of his latest project. Grau, after filming Medardo, is back in theater production but holds a huge desire to start directing another film. “I would love to work with Julio Ortega again. He is an excellent actor who believes in everything he does,” expressed Grau. ‘Medardo’ has received recognition in NYC winning awards for their achievement in the making of this film and also being recognized at international film festivals in Ecuador and Mexico. Ortega will continue moving the film to other parts of the world, in hopes of sharing Silva’s story internationally.
From right to left: Director Nitsy Grau, Actress Edna Lee Figueroa, Actor and producer Julio Ortega, Actors Edison Carrera, and Juan Villarreal at the ACE awards. Photo taken by: Michael Palma
At a press conference for Medardo. From left to right starting from the bottom: Actresses Gloria Ospina and Fior Marte, director Nitsy Grau, actor Juan Villarreal. Starting from right to left on top: Actor and general producer Julio Ortega, actress Edna Lee Figueroa, and actor Edison Carrera. Photo: Provided
Trailer of Medardo Starring Julio Ortega, Lupita Ferrer, Edna Lee Figueroa, and Fátima Mayorga
To learn more about Medardo’s story, the cast, and crew, click on the link below. http://www.medardo.info/index.html
- Opera Prima Awards (HOLA) New York – Julio Ortega & Nitsy Grau
- Golden Iguana Award for Best Guayaquilean Film – Guayaquil International Film Festival
- Golden Palm Award for Narrative Feature – Mexico International Film Festival
- Nomination for Best Foreign Feature – Los Angeles Independent Film Festival
- Special Distinction Award, Premios ACE New York – Edna Lee Figueroa