Oscar-winning director Alejandro González Iñárritu hasn’t shied away from slamming President Donald Trump in the past. In 2015, he delivered a speech denouncing Trump’s proposed border wall. About a year later, in September 2016, he called Mexican president Peña Nieto’s invitation for Trump to visit the country “a betrayal” in a scathing op-ed for El País, writing that the then-Republican presidential nominee had “insulted us, spat on us, and threatened us for more than a year before the entire world… It lacks dignity and in turn strengthens a political campaign of hatred toward us, toward half of humanity, and toward the most vulnerable minorities on the planet.”
But during a Tribeca Film Festival-hosted conversation with performance artist Marina Abramović on Saturday afternoon, months after Trump’s inauguration, Iñárritu largely steered clear of politics. When Abramović pointedly asked The Revenant director whether he feels that he, as one of few prominent Mexican directors, has a platform to speak out about the current state of America’s government, he carefully considered the question, explaining that he doesn’t play a large enough role in the political conversation to solve the issues he sees happening.
“I don’t have a domain in that territory,” he said. “I don’t have an answer to the problem. I know it’s a huge problem, but I’m not a politician. But what I know is that there is ignorance, there’s fear. Those are the enemy and not anybody else, and in a way, from the cultural debate and from the humanistic debate and from these platforms, we can really answer that… We have to elevate the conversation to another level.”
Iñárritu admits that that level includes his next project, a virtual reality-based film called Carne y Arena (“Flesh and Sand”), which he said came from an idea he had four years ago to turn the camera toward the ignored immigrant population’s stories — stories that have become more relevant than ever. “I found myself really close to the stories of immigrant people from Mexico and Central America, who have really struggled a lot,” he said. “Few people really know their past and the reasons why they came.”
“Immigration and terrorism were blended in 2001,” he continued. “Suddenly, they were caught in this fear and ignorance of who [they] are… Seeing their realities, I thought it would be amazing at least just to document a piece of the undocumented moments or stories of their journeys.”
Carne y Arena is set to premiere at the Cannes Film Festival in May.