Mexico’s Ivan Lowenberg on ‘No Quiero Ser Polvo,’ Seeing Omens in Thunderstorms, Casting His Mom

·4-min read

In director Ivan Lowenberg’s second feature, “I Don’t Want to Be Dust” (“No quiero ser polvo”), a middle-aged woman is struggling to feel relevant to an indifferent husband, a shlub of a son and, well, life, in general.

She’s sharp enough to see through the fake mysticism of New Age-ish gurus and the airy platitudes of her yoga instructor, but she takes refuge in a cult that that is mostly interested in selling must-have’s from the gift shop and doomsday predictions that Bego eagerly and almost joyfully embraces.

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Having grown up in a bizarrely New Age-ish family that saw omens in thunderstorms, Lewenberg said, “I began to ask myself: What could be behind a person whose main motivation in being alive is a cataclysm of big proportions?”
It’s a social phenomenon that has even infused politics in recent years.

But as Lowenberg explained to Variety when he took the time to answer some questions at the Guadalajara Film Festival, it is also a personal story. It even stars his mother.

It seems like a very apt time to make a film about people in turmoil who become victims of their expected saviors. It seems to be a global phenomenon, right now. What prompted you to explore that?

The story is inspired by a true event that happened to my family back in the ‘90s. I was raised in a very New Age environment, and at some point, this three days of darkness theory started to be very popular among my parents circle of friends and we totally bought it; suddenly everything around us started to seem part of of a transition to a new dimension, even an electrical storm became a “suspicious abnormal electrical storm”; we adjusted our vision to fit our belief. Around 2010, I heard people talking with this weird catastrophic excitement about three days of darkness approaching and it is when I started to more consciously ask myself: what could be behind a person whose main motivation to be alive is a cataclysm of big proportions? Why do people choose to believe one thing and try so hard to convince people to believe in it, too? Many triggers that affected my family nucleus at the time are still in force and perhaps in a more marked and widespread way: Tensions of a tremendous nature, the difficulty in distinguishing between reality and spectacle, economic and ecological crises of obscene dimensions, loneliness in a hyper-connected world, so exposed and so consumerist… it is easy to feel tiny and inconsequential.

Did your visualization of the narrative start from a social perspective and then there emerged the main character? Or was Bego, your protagonist, based on a real person?

When I started to write the script, it started out from a character perspective. The main actress is actually my mom in real life playing a fictionalized version of herself; I adapted the experience we went through to a probable conflict of a woman her age in our times and context. It is her debut as an actress, and I feel very proud of her performance. We screened the film to a few industry members, and they were surprised by the fact that it is her debut, they think she is a veteran actress they just happen not to know.

This is your second feature as a director. How has the experience been?

I don’t know how to describe the experience because it has taken us almost ten years to film it, so we have gone through a lot of ups and downs. But if I narrow it to the shooting experience, it has been wonderful, I was surrounded by a small and very talented crew and cast that helped me complete the shooting in two-and-a-half weeks with very limited resources, in the peak of the pandemic. We had no margin of error and it could have been a perfect situation for fights and tensions, but really, the crew made it feel like a wonderful journey, it all flowed very smoothly and I only have them to thank.

Do you think there is an international audience for this film?

Although the story Is focused on this particular group and theory, I do think it is a very human thing to do to look for a truth that can make us feel validated, with purpose or a sense of belonging. Feeling important to someone is a nice feeling, and having certainty of the future even better, and we may do very absurd and even nocive things just to have that for a moment. I think people around the world can relate to that.

Ivan Lowenberg - Credit: Credit: CHRISTOPHER NAVARRO/FICG
Ivan Lowenberg - Credit: Credit: CHRISTOPHER NAVARRO/FICG

Credit: CHRISTOPHER NAVARRO/FICG

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