Bustillo’s Cinematic Bridge Building
Tomas Gomez Bustillo has become one of the most discussed young filmmakers for two simple reasons; he has something unique to say and he possesses the talent to communicate his ideas exceedingly well. Modern technology has given all filmmakers the means to create and present their art so what separates those who simply make from those who create and influence? The answer is originality and a clear voice. From his renowned short film Jose starring Pepe Serna (acclaimed for his roles in Scarface, The Rookie, and Silverado) and throughout subsequent productions, Tomas has proven himself a director and writer capable of infusing the action of film with multiple layers of emotion and character motivation. The filmmaker’s formative years vacillating between the US and Latin America has culminated in a perspective capable of tapping into the societal subtext of this part of North America and the planet. Through his own search for identity, Tomas has created a narrative language that connects with multitudes in spite of how they might self-identify. From his previous work and up to his upcoming features, this artist is cultivating a body of films which reflect our best…and worst selves back to us.
Jose is a film in which Bustillo presents the importance of our own decisions and their consequences. While not originally intended as such, Serna and the Tomas crafted a completely nonverbal approach for the title character. The agony and fear percolating inside Jose is the symbiotic pairing of seasoned consummate actor with intuitive directing. The dance which occurs between Pepe’s performance and the audience’s visibility of it is simultaneously jarring and natural. While not the recognized marquee name in the US that he is in Latin American, Jose is proof that Bustillo is quickly on his way to notoriety in Hollywood.
If Jose is a production that relates a harsh reality, Flight is a high art film in which Tomas presents a vastly different filmmaking style; one which earned numerous recognitions from such events as the Hollywood Screenings Film Festival, InShort Film Festival, Fort McMurray Film Festival, and others. Ironically, Bustillo has created a dark tone in the setting of a home flooded with light. Metaphors in the story are recognizable but the conflict blossoms just as powerfully as if they were concealed or disguised. The overlying theme here is that a dark story can occur in a picture perfect home. There’s a strange randomness at work in everyday life and we don’t know its name or how to control it. It exists, subverting our sense of certainty while constantly informing us that we are also paradoxical.
Bustillo finds himself currently working with the prestigious Argentine production company Rei Cine (producer of such award-winning films as Zama by Lucrecia Martel, The Accused by Gonzalo Tobal, and The Queen of Fear by Valeria Bertuccelli) on The Death of Irma Lopez. This dark comedy is set in rural Argentina and depicts the competition of elderly female congregates for status as the most pious. When one of the women dies, we understand the possible misconceptions about sainthood and a life well (or not so well) lived. The filmmaker’s own youthful missionary work inspired the story. Tomas communicates, “I remembered those summers, the thunderstorms, food, pace of life, and those peculiar old ladies. For five summers, I called this village home, met all of the elderly people (the young people never showed up at church things), and ‘helped’ them further their devotion. I vividly recall the way these older women competed with each other to please the priest and prove who was the most devout. Through remembering them, I found Irma. She is an amalgamation of those elderly women, of friends, of family, and of course of myself.” The question posed by the film is whether we are overlooking the wonderment of life’s imperfections in pursuit of an afterlife that is “perfect.”
Not complacent in his film success, Tomas has also undertaken an atypical production for himself in an upcoming Sci-Fi television series. Though as of yet untitled, the series is his collaboration with award winning director and writer Samir Oliveros. Although details about the project remain secret, this dark comedy centers around a small desert town during the 1960s visited by a shapeshifting alien. This otherworldly visitor disrupts the barriers humans have put in place to conceal their honest feelings about social, racial, gender, and religious conventions. The only exposed common thread in Bustillo’s work here is the subtext of mankind’s potential for ill and whether or not they will deal with it.
While words convey one’s affinity for and recognition of talent, the most truthful description of an artist’s ability is their own work. Tomas directly communicates his feelings for his home city in 2017’s Soy Buenos Aires, wrapped in a seasoning of drama, comedy, and intellect. It is immediately evident that this is a filmmaker whose voice speaks clearly and lovingly to the viewer. Bustillo imbues each viewer the same power as the main character of this film…to become Buenos Aires. The film’s title character embodies Bustillo’s ethos of becoming one with the film.