After the success of the Noam Chomsky event, the Concordia Student Union (CSU) had another trick up their sleeve — Mexican actor, director and producer, Gael García Bernal. Bernal’s career exploded after his debut in some of the most celebrated films in Mexico such as Alejandro Gonzalez Iñárritu’s Amores Perros and Alfonso Cuarón’s Y tu mama tambien.
Bernal arrived for his first time in Montreal to present his latest documentary, Who is Dayani Cristal? at the 16th annual Montreal International Documentary Festival (RIDM). The film mixes documentary and fiction, in which Bernal retraces the steps of a Latin-American migrant found dead while traveling from Honduras to Arizona.
It was for this reason that the Concordia Student Union was asked to co-host the festival with RIDM to present Bernal as a guest-speaker.
“I was thrilled because the CSU really values the importance of documentary and art, especially when it’s used as a catalyst for social change,” said Caroline Bourbonniere, VP external and mobilization for the CSU.
Before delving into a discussion of social change through documentary, Bernal recounted his own personal journey.
“I was always working with my parents in their plays, but I think a key moment came when I was 14, 15, during [the] Zapatista uprising in Chiapas and [it] changed my perspective completely,” he said.
By 19 years of age, Bernal was a Mexican soap opera heartthrob, but he left Mexico to study acting at the Central School of Speech and Drama in London. After running out of money in 3 weeks, Bernal had to take odd jobs in bars and restaurants.
“I thought I would never be an actor, I thought I’d act as a hobby … I wanted to see myself as a pediatrician.”
Yet it was while he was a student in London that Mexican director Alejandro Gonzalez Iñárritu approached him for Amores Perros.
When it comes to defining who he is as an individual, even after all his acclaimed success, the answer does not come easy.
“Even at this age, I don’t know who I am. It’s more direct for me to say who I am going to be, rather than who I am because who I am is [not] static, I’m losing it at every second,” Bernal said.
Shining a light on how fortunate Canadians are to get government funding for creating films, Bernal expressed how important the notion of not having to return that money allows artists to expand on their own identity.
“Our films will be more transcendent when they are completely free,” explained Bernal.
That’s why the actor is the co-chair of Ambulante, the travelling documentary film festival, whose worldwide mission is to promote and fundraise Mexican documentaries.
“We need to talk about our reality and building our identity for ourselves. So this documentary film festival started to become this big thing in open air.”
Bernal also has a connection to Concordia, taking on the role of Mazier Bahari, in the upcoming film Rosewater, directed by John Stewart. Maziar Bahari is the Canadian journalist and Concordia Alumni who was arrested in 2009 by the Iranian government and accused of being an American spy.
Find out more about Who is Dayani Cristal? at http://whoisdayanicristal.com