Based in a true story, “Soy Criminal” raises the nightmare many girls live in Guerrero, Mexico: being sold for marriage and being considered criminals for running away from their “husbands”. Here, directors Yupi Segura and Nea Serrano (awarded as Best New Talent in Direction at CICLOPE Latino 2022) go through the creative process behind the film, and discuss the challenges of working as a duo. “When a film is full of emotion and people are passionate about the story, the team takes everything to the next level, they incorporate more of themselves in the process and every emotion on set truly leaks into the film”, they say.

Soy Criminal - Yo Quiero Yo Puedo

How did you come across this story?

This story became news across Mexico in 2021. We both remember watching and being terrorized at the fact that it was a reality in mid 2021. Yo Quiero, Yo Puedo is an amazing organization that is actively working to eradicate this; MediaMonks introduced us with the idea of making a campaign to raise awareness and help get the funds they need to continue to try and change this custom.

What was the initial brief and how did you transform it into a short film?

Once MediaMonks reached out, with Oriental Films we created a fictionalized script that would help us reach spectators with a strong message that would be able to generate strong feelings. We were told about Angelica’s particular story, how she was forced to be married, escaped and then was punished for running away from violence, rape and other types of abuse, and decided that a particular story is always stronger than a general concept, so we started from there. We wanted something more than a drama, so a lot of work went into adding elements of humor that would in no way lessen the impact, and we also believed that a good plot twist is a great tool to make a memorable story. After that, the idea to place the spectator’s empathy in whom would later turn out to be the perpetrator of a large injustice seemed like a good way to make people realize how we all contribute to this terrible situation; it is the responsibility of the capable to defend the vulnerable, and that is part of what we wish to convey.

Why did you decide to team up as a directors’ duo for this particular project?

Picking a duo is a complex task; you need to find someone who will challenge you and think differently, but with whom you will ultimately be able to agree with. We’ve worked together for a few years now on different projects, and know that we have very different strengths that compliment each other amazingly. It’s really important as a duo to find that point where two different perspectives and visions can meet in favour of the story you wish to tell. There is a delicate mix of humour, empathy, sweetness, and harshness in our team that always leaves us happy with our outcomes. We also come from different backgrounds in the industry and that has always helped us balance out the process.

What are the pros and cons of shooting as a duo?

Both a pro and con is that you won’t always get your way. Also at times it was hard to align our schedules, but ultimately there were many more benefits to working as a duo. We would basically say that any con you could think of is really an opportunity to learn, and probably something that would arise working with any team.

A great pro is the ability to split tasks; we had little time for the preproduction, so this was essential in being able to get everything done.

It’s really common to have moments when you feel stuck inside your head, being able to throw ideas back and forth was amazing; Yupi would say something and Nea would laugh, and we would immediately know that it worked and would start finding out how to incorporate it. Having another director whose work and personality we admire as a partner on this job helped us think up new ways to show and tell different parts of the film.

Also, this was a VERY emotional project, and having each other as support was great to help us get through some tough scenes, albeit not without a few tears.

What were the biggest challenges you faced as directors

Casting was very challenging; we needed a lot of acting range from many of the characters, and knew that it was imperative to have the right match for each one. We fortunately found incredible talent that did just that and more. It was also very important for us to make sure that everyone felt comfortable on set, the scene when they finally find Angelica was hard, we wanted it to look forceful and cold while taking care of our fantastic yet underage actress.

How do you relate to the issue portrayed in the film?

It’s really hard to relate to the issue because it seems so foreign when you’ve been lucky enough to feel protected, but it happens in our country, and that was something that immediately brought us close. We have family that are Angelica’s age, so it was very easy to put different faces on this character, and it truly broke our heart to think of them in these situations. There were also character’s emotions we could definitely relate to. From feeling helpless, to being scared to do the right thing, anger… We think that really helped us go deep into the story and make what we believe is a touching short film.

What do you like the most about this film?

We feel that we were able to make the characters relatable; the small elements of humour were definitely important to make it easier to watch and, mostly, that all the different areas complement each other, none is overpowering: production design, art, script, sound design, everything works seamlessly together.


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