Alejandro Peña's new short film, Pedazos, explores unrequited queer love through the kaleidoscopic lens of a Meso-American spectacle.
The technicolor visual has already played at the New York Experimental Video & Film Festival this past November, as well as at Slamdance, Sundance's cool "alt cousin." This summer, Pedazos is scheduled to play at two major events in Los Angeles: the LGBTQ-centric OutFest, and as a short in the LA Film Festival.
Peña is an up-and-coming queer filmmaker currently based in Boston, creating work that's experimental, colorful and entirely unpredictable—check out +A Future and R / B / G, which was an official Slamdance select in 2014.
Watch the OUT premiere of Pedazos, below, as well as a conversation with Peña about the intention behind his newest work.
OUT: What did you intend to convey through Pedazos? It reads as two gay guys hooking up, before one develops feelings for the other, but they're unrequited.
Peña: That’s basically the plot in a nutshell. But I also wanted to keep it ambiguous. There’s not one narrative arc. I threw in things—metaphors that I thought people could interpret differently. Like the cave, and how you can’t see anyone’s faces besides the two main guys. I had all these abstract ideas that came from just a purely creative standpoint. I didn’t really know what I was trying to say, but was more working from a place of feeling. People generally tend to give similar interpretations to what you said.
Was this inspired by a personal experience?
The whole situation of loving someone, and having them not be able to reciprocate in public... that’s something I went through in high school. And I’d also never expressed my sexuality in anything I’ve ever made. So I was thinking, "What do I want to express? What do I want to say?" And it was that. In terms of the tribal stuff, that comes from a childhood fascination I’ve always had. I grew up with a lot of Meso-American art around the house. My parents are Mexican. So that was just an aesthetic I’d never expressed in any work, so I thought, "OK, that’s interesting. Let’s work with that."
What did you find to be significant about the sounds in the film? There's a ringing sound throughout.
I worked with my friend John [Loxterkamp], who lives in Brooklyn, who’s just a really talented sound artist and composer. The relationship between me and him in this project was really interesting because I would give him just a few sentences of what I was going for, and he’d just do whatever he wanted. There’s no intentional meaning, but I think that with it all put together, you can relate it to something else. After he gave me that ringing sound, and as I put it into the sequence, I began to see it as... every time you have a breakup, or a falling out with a romantic interest, it’s always up to the healing powers of time. But you have to walk around for awhile, maybe months, with this constant reminder of the pain.
The title Pedazos translates to "pieces." What’s the significance?
I just needed to name it something, instead of calling it, "My Next Project." But it’s a Spanish word, and I do have roots in Mexican culture. And also, there’s a lot of crowds, and groups, in the whole short film. And the idea of them, even though they’re all wearing masks, moving together as part of this bigger entity, this organism... people are a lot more scary when they’re in groups. And I think an even more terrifying thing is when you can’t see someone’s face. So a group of people where you can’t see their faces is terrifying.
What other projects are you working on?
I’m trying to shoot something in LA—I’m still interested in the idea of talking about love. So I have this idea for a stop-motion animation that’s about a Chinese restaurant on the edge of a cliff, called "Mama Loves You." And there’s more, but that’s all I’ve got right now. And it’s in Mandarin.
What are your larger artistic goals as a queer filmmaker?
I like every short film that I make, and it always takes me years—I want them all to be very different, and it’s because I’m constantly getting bored, and drifting in a new direction. With Pedazos, I’ve realized I can make queer work without producing the same thing over and over again. I think the next thing I make is definitely going to involve queerness, at least partially, but be very different. It’s something I really like to see, and you sometimes don’t get it a lot, watching short films online or at festivals.