As I watched the films for Short Block 3 at our virtual film festival a few weeks ago, we just finished Heidi Neff’s “The Long Goodbye”, an animated short film that explores the anxiety of the recent US election between Donald Trump and Joe Biden, ending emotionally in a powerful and somber way. Following, like a breath of fresh air was the short film “Mijo” directed by Mazdey Snob. We are brought into a vibrant modern take on the story of the myth of the Midas touch. Mazdey’s background is in fashion films and Mexican street culture, celebrating the style of Pachucos from the 1930s/40s. Pachucos traditionally are male members of a counterculture associated with zoot suit fashion, jazz and swing music, a distinct dialect known as caló, and self-empowerment in rejecting assimilation into Anglo-American society that emerged in Los Angeles in the late 1930s (according to Wikipedia). Mazdey says this fashion sense has never gone out of style, and has just evolved into whatever times we’re in. This short elevates underrepresented artists onscreen, and plays with gender in a unique way that I’ve never seen before.
Through her uplifting spirit, sense of style, and creativity, Mazdey has created something beautiful, special, and transformative onscreen. Because of the experience I had with the film, and her passion behind it, I chose Mazdey as our Phenomenal Woman in Film for our 2022 fest edition. The prize for this award is an interview with me that is featured on CinemaFemme.com. I spoke with Mazdey, with the help of her interpreter, Cristina Prado (Associate Producer on the film), as Mazdey’s first language is Spanish, about her passion for directing, and why “Mijo” is such an important film. I’m so excited for people to see this short, as it is so joyful and full of life. Stay tuned here for updates on its release.
Tell me your story about how you got into filmmaking.
My story is a bit complicated. Since I was a kid, I wanted to make movies, but because of my situation, I thought it was a very difficult goal and not realistic. So eventually, I decided to study graphic design, but when I graduated, I still had that voice inside telling me to make films. I eventually discovered my passion through the fashion film genre, and taught myself how to make films.
Can you talk about how you made “Mijo” and how you took an old Greek myth about the Midas touch and made it fresh and modern?
I started with the typical premise of “what if?”, with the idea of King Midas and the word “Mijo”. I really like mythology and one day I thought it would be great to tell the myth of Midas in the style of a fashion film. It occurred to me that instead of turning what he touched into gold, he would turn it into a styled up version to give it that fashion touch. All of this would be told in the manner of a comedy.
I also really like the style of the Pachucos and I thought, ‘What if the main character Mijo is a Pachuco and receives the gift of Midas? What would the story be like then?’ With the music, plot, and with the character’s personality, I was putting together the pieces of the story by incorporating elements that I personally love and the kind of stories that I want to tell.
Can you talk about how you play with gender in “Mijo”, as with the relationship Mijo has with the drag performer?
When I started imagining the story and the characters, it came naturally. I had in mind several of the participants since I began thinking about the project. I was already following Dolores Black on Instagram and I loved her work as a performer.
I love how your film elevates artists and Mexico. Can you talk about that?
I like the word “mijo” because of the tender meaning it has in Mexico. So I thought it would be great for the title of the film and to give the protagonist personality. I wanted “Mijo” to be a Mexican fairy tale, created with elements of our culture and our streets. I chose the myth of King Midas and transformed it into something more related to Mexico. The wardrobe is inspired by Pachucos from the 40s which have been a symbol of migrant resistance in the US.
The film is a collaboration with independent local artists, showcasing Mexican tailoring, fashion and music. It brings together so many elements of my culture which I rarely see represented on film or in a positive way. We are all independent creators who try to carry our projects and dreams from our roots.
What’s next for you?
I just moved to Spain permanently. I’m very excited about this new journey. I’d like to collaborate with different artists and see what stories can be told. I am open to proposals from anyone who is interested in my work. I also don’t rule out the possibility of traveling to Mexico whenever I can to work. I want to keep representing Mexico through my work. My idea is to continue my work as a director creating fashion films, advertising and perhaps getting into cinema.
I want the world to see this film. It’s such a breath of fresh air: beautiful, colorful, and full of life. How has the festival run been going?
We’ve been submitting to a lot of festivals all over the world. We’ve also been fortunate enough for “Mijo” to be nominated for a lot of awards.
What have you learned as a filmmaker, and what advice would you give a filmmaker like yourself just starting out?
It’s always complicated to give advice, but what I can say is that the system is complex and difficult and it doesn’t vouch for an opportunity for everyone. But besides being complicated, it is about not letting go when an opportunity presents itself. Just go for it, don’t let it go. And if at some point it doesn’t work out, that doesn’t mean you did a bad job. It’s just a result of the system not working in your favor. It’s important to be aware of that. You have to keep going and sometimes create your own opportunities.
What do you hope people see in your work?
I wanted to create a film to empower us as racialized people. I wanted to create a story for us within our own universe. “Mijo” is about representation through fantasy because I feel like it has been taken from us. Those stories usually happen in distant lands and amongst those with whom you often don’t identify. When I was a child, I loved fantasy films, but nothing looked like me or the place where I grew up. I wanted to make a film that people can enjoy. I made a point of giving it several special moments that people can treasure and connect with.