"Rezeta" explores love and cultural shock
January 22, 2014
Fernando Frias is a first-time filmmaker from Mexico City, and his directorial debut, "Rezeta," premiered at Slamdance this week. The film follows an Albanian model named Rezeta and her venture into Mexico for work. There, she meets and falls for a local named Alex.
Frias first met lead actress Rezeta Veliu several years ago when he was shooting commercials. He said she told him stories about work, and he found it so interesting he wanted to make a film about it. "Rezeta" is based upon the things she has gone through in her modeling career in different countries.
"I would say the dialogue in the film is 70-percent script and 30-percent improvisation," Arias said. "There was a 50-page script and some outlines, so the scenes depended upon what needed to happen at the time."
Veliu said it was freeing being able to improvise dialogue and actions within the scenes, but she also felt very vulnerable going back into the different things she experienced as a model working in a foreign country.
The opening scene shows Veliu meeting her roommates, models from different countries. She said that was a very real experience and that it can be scary moving in with people you don’t know in a place you have never been and don’t speak the language.
Frias said that was the focus of the film. It was not centered on Rezeta, he said, but rather around the cultural shock people of all nationalities experience at one time or another.
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Coming to the United States from Mexico, Frias said he felt that culture shock and wanted to give the Hispanic community a relatable story, one he said they have not had recently, even in an "emerging Hispanic market" for film.
"I think that, in general, going to a movie is expensive for most Hispanics, and they don’t want to waste their money on a film that might not be as gratifying as an American comedy or drama," he said. "I wanted to give them something they could relate to and that was going to satisfy them as an audience."
Frias came to the United States to study communications and work as a photographer, and now he has received a Fulbright Scholarship to study dramatic structure at Columbia University in New York City. He said he is currently working on another script that follows the life of a Mexican immigrant in New York.
"A lot of my work is about culture shock, but that’s because it is so relatable," he said.
Veliu is an Albanian model from Kosovo, and after starring in Arias’ film, she said she found out that it is her passion. She is now in her second year of acting school in New York and said she is looking for as much work as possible.
"Rezeta" is Frias’ attempt to boost the Mexican film industry while also telling a common story from a different perspective, he said. "I just hope people enjoy it and that I can make more of these films," he said.