Gael García Bernal On Desierto

García Bernal gives us his take on the creation of the immigration-thriller film he stars in
Gael García Bernal plays immigrant Moises in Desierto.

Arturo Hilario

El Observador

Jonás Cuarón, (son of Alfonso Cuarón), brings a cinematic, terror-inducing thriller with Desierto. In the film, a group of hopeful immigrants crossing into the United States at the Mexican border are met with a a horrifying situation as they are hunted by a ‘patriot’.

Gael García Bernal’s character Moises is part of the immigrant group trying to make their way through a tough desert landscape when the ‘coyote’ truck they are in breaks down before its intended destination.

Jeffrey Dean Morgan, who plays the antagonist Sam, delivers an intense performance as he victimizes the group, giving off that vibe you can find on your local hate Twitter account.  Throughout the film, he gives quips to his dog, Tracker, on how he hates what this country has become, and insight on why he is choosing to hunt down human beings who are tired and just trying to get to a better life, much like Europeans 396 years ago (All while kicking back whiskey).

An amalgamation of the Alt-Right, Sam’s goal is to rid the desert of what he might consider vermin, all the while the survivors of the group, eventually led by García Bernal’s Moises fearfully fight to survive. The cinematography is great, and the younger Cuarón wrote and directed a strong thriller that at times feels asphyxiating, and sadly, might not be far from truth.

Below, García Bernal talks about immigration, and how he feels about working on  Desierto

Hi Gael, can you tell me how you became involved with this project?

I’ve known Jonas for a long long time and it is a subject matter that I am very interested in. I’ve been doing a few short film documentaries and also feature films documentary about this issue so it was a natural collaboration.

When creating this film, did you know it could be an important commentator on the current state of immigration?

Well definitely when we were doing it we were aware that’s why I’ve been participating in a few films knowing that it is a very important one because it is not only about what happens in the United States and Mexico, it’s what happens everywhere in the world. We’ve reached this point of discussing migration, in a criminalizing way, and we need to understand that the issue of migration can be accepted as a natural phenomenon and we have to incorporate new ways of talking about this issue without criminalizing something that will happen naturally, and the world needs it to happen in order for things to exist.  

What was it like working with Jeffrey Dean Morgan, who plays Sam the unrelenting ‘vigilante’ hunting down the group of immigrants?

I didn’t get a chance to work that much with him, but I like the work he does in the film. He’s a really good actor and a really good companion as well and it was interesting to finally meet him, while filming, because he was chasing me. [laughs]

In the film there is a large group of migrants, including your character, Moises. Did you and the crew feel any connection to the plight of immigrants? Where they all professional actors?

Some of them were not professional actors, the vast majority were not professional actors actually. A couple of them had lived through this, crossing the desert, the rest hadn’t lived that but they were well aware of what was going on and because we are all migrants and human beings, we feel a personal relationship to it.

This film has elements of horror and mania. How can a film like Desierto speak to actual situations faced by immigrants?

Films can be a great vehicle to unveil a problem, to signal a situation, something that needs to be talked about and discussed, and I think this film portrays our biggest nightmare. What happens when this hate speech is validated.

Why should audiences see Desierto?

It is a pretty good film, it is entertaining, at the same time it will make a comment on what’s happening in our countries with our people, and also gives it instigates an inner reflection on how we need to establish new politics and new ways of speaking on coming together.

You can catch Gael García Bernal in Desierto, now in theaters.