"And that’s why The Zanctuary is a New York story, because this is the truth for every soul that hustles in this concrete grind."
THE ZANCTUARY was a hallucination that subtly bounced in my head all my life, and at some point, all the pieces magically fell into place. And that hallucination became real.
As early as I can remember, I have been artistically aroused by decadent women in comics, films, books, paintings, and life. I discovered one fact that several of these characters shared was they were all prostitutes. Regardless of their actual vocation, most of them were considered harlots by society. They were survivors, characters that no matter their origin felt alone in the world. In most cases, they were victims of being ahead of the times.
Growing up in Hispanic countries, living amongst brokenhearted ladies, I was constantly under the influence of boleros, tangos, and ballads singing desperate words and sorrowful melodies, passionate rhythms whose melodrama greatly influenced me. La Lupe, Mirtha Pérez, Chavela Vargas, Lupita D´Alessio, Blanca Rosa Gil & Rocio Jurado are the soundtrack to the Brothel, the Bar, the Cabaret, Temples that sheltered those who worked and lived in them. Here, these people found freedom while becoming prisoners to their decisions, victims by choice, warriors by fate, knowing life in the “real world” could be worse.
Dora Ramona del Pilar (who shares her name with my Great-Aunt) is my main player. She stands alone, a mother, sacrificing everything only to be met with betrayal. As I developed her story, I asked myself: Does she give herself to people in a selfish way, to obtain gratitude and attention? Are her maternal instincts genuine or egotistical? Is she a victim of her circumstances? I found myself asking these questions every time I look at my photo albums, or fulfill the need to create, when I dare to love or when I look in the mirror.
In 2011, when I began sketching the Zanctuary, I had no doubt the soul of the film was in New York City. All my life I have felt like an extraterrestrial, natural to nowhere, with no distinguishable accent, disgusted by gender norms applied to me. Despite this, I never felt empty. I never understood nationalism, the longing to be part of a group. The only way I recognize this feeling within me is seeing New York as the only place in where I feel less alien.
And that’s why The Zanctuary is a New York story, because this is the truth for every soul that hustles in this concrete grind. The only place in the world where the rootless mingle and find a path, a home. I still say, I feel uncomfortable forming part of this whole. But, I also know how much sense I make in New York, and how much this story breathes in these streets.
As the deadly Sophia Lamar stated in our first rehearsal: “This is a story about the human condition!”. A story that portrays characters who suffer from the dark path of marginalization and ostracism. I do not judge or punish any of their choices, it requires courage to survive the horrors lived on the streets, guts to expose yourself to the world, especially in times when you could be imprisoned, declared mentally ill, or been murdered for living truthfully. I have learned to admire their survival capabilities in a world that rejects them; I filmed this story in the name of all those men and women, biological or otherwise, who fight for their place in a society that rarely shows any sympathy.
at the Polaroid: Joey Arias.