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Cuarón's son makes picture perfect film

  • Story Highlights
  • Jonás Cuarón's debut feature, "Año Uña" is a montage of photographic stills
  • Jonás is the son of Mexican New Wave director, Alfonso Cuarón
  • Father and son have launched a short film competition for young filmmakers
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By Marco Woldt
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LONDON, England (CNN) -- In most households, photo albums sit on shelves or in drawers for years on end collecting dust.

Jonas Cuarón, son of Mexican director Alfonso Cuarón, with his girlfriend, Eireann Harper, who starred in "Año Uña."

Jonás Cuarón has put his own to much better use -- the 25-year-old son of Mexican director Alfonso Cuarón has turned his collection of family photographs into a feature film.

During the making of "Año Uña," Cuarón walked around, camera in hand for a period of twelve months, randomly capturing scenes from his personal life. At the end of the year he and his girlfriend Eireann Harper mounted thousands of these images in a room and wrote a fictional story to accompany them.

The final product is a most unusual film -- a montage of stills, brought to life through a mixture of dialogue, narration and sound effects. The story is that of an impossible love relationship between a 24-year-old American girl (Harper) and a Mexican teenager played by Jonás' half-brother, Diego Cataño.

"A common thing I hear from people who have seen the movie, is that the first five minutes they're very worried that they'll have to sit through eighty minutes of photographs," Cuarón explained to CNN, "But then by minute seven they forget they're watching stills and become engaged with the characters." Watch Jonás Cuarón talking about "Ano Uno." Video

Amongst those engrossed by "Año Uña" are some of contemporary Mexican cinema's most iconic figures. The likes of Alejandro González Iñárritu and Gael García Bernal have championed the film for its originality.

While Jonás' family ties have undoubtedly been of much use in promoting "Año Uña" amongst the great and good of Mexican cinema, his father's influence on the film itself is minimal.

Although Alfonso is credited as its producer, the renowned director knew nothing of the project during its production.

"Jonás showed me the final film and I said 'Yikes! Look at that. You made a film. Show it to people you trust like Alejandro González Iñárritu , Guillermo del Toro, just for feedback.' That was as far as the consultancy went," Alfonso Cuarón told CNN.

Father and son worked together previously on "The Shock Doctrine," a political short film released on YouTube. Unlike "Año Uña," the project involved a more traditional form of collaboration between Jonás as director Alfonso as producer.

When asked about their working relationship, Alfonso's response is filled with enthusiasm: "Usually one of us throws an idea and the other catches it and throws it back. It's telepathic in a way, we learn a lot from each other.

"Something that really fascinates me, not only about Jonás, but his entire generation, is how they work with their formats."

Indeed, Jonás' ambition to break with the conventions of filmmaking is in line with a trend emerging amongst young filmmakers not only in Mexico, but across the world. According to Jonás this willingness to experiment is rooted in technological advances: "[In the past] filmmakers had really complicated screenplays and they would wait for grants and finance support.

"Now since video is not as expensive, people are starting to go out and film reality without a script, and then out of that reality, editing it and finding the story as they go."

In order to give such creative talent more exposure, the Cuaróns recently launched a competition -- the 'Año Uña' Short Film Competition -- that challenges young filmmakers to step in Jonas' footsteps. Aspiring writers and directors are encouraged to submit an "Año Uña"-like short film made entirely from photographic stills.

The winning submission will be screened at the premiere of "Año Uña" later this month.

In addition to promoting his own film, Jonás is convinced that the contest will create opportunities for his peers: "I'm thrilled that this short film competition will open doors for filmmakers to play with new languages and demonstrate that the creative process of filmmaking can be more accessible than is often assumed."

Despite Jonás' position at the helm of this innovative community, he says would like to try using more traditional methods on his next film project.

"Well, next time I would like to start with a screenplay and shoot 24 frames per second," he says with a smile, "I don't think that you necessarily need to go as far as using still images to find new languages in film."


Jonás may be laying the family photo album aside but the family legacy looks set to thrive regardless. With not one, but three Cuaróns (Alfronso's brother Carlos is also a filmmaker) mixing up the cinematic landscape, filmmaking may well be in for a make-over.

Entries for the 'Año Uña' Short Film Competitionclose on November 19th
"Año Uña"is released in the UK on November 28th

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