cuts is a series of personal essays where filmmakers tell the story of how their film was made. This 2022 TIFF edition by Katherine Jerkovic focuses on her film Coyote, which follows a family’s journey to reconnect after a widower’s estranged daughter reappears with a grandson he didn’t know.
As a writer-director, it took me several years to write. Every movie is a long journey for me. When I finish writing a script, I am not the same person I was when I started. And when the film ends, I feel very far from that initial person.
People who have never worked on a feature film tend to think that five, eight, ten years is a long time and that maybe there is something wrong with things dragging on. But for me, life must infuse and permeate the work. Life nourishes art and art nourishes life. This back-and-forth dialogue is what makes the work mature and relevant. I don’t believe in things done quickly; only time can bring depth and wisdom.
I wrote the first synopsis of Coyote about 10 years ago It was the story of a man who felt he had been a neglectful father and found himself given a second chance at being one: a grandfather. It was also about the plans we make and how useless they are when life is so unpredictable. She was pregnant at the time. And so, inevitably, the script became a meditation on parenting and our responsibility to children. What does it mean to raise a child today, in our society of nuclear families, immigrants without relatives, and countless lonely people?
I was the son of a political refugee living in a foreign country with no family. Like thousands of young Latin Americans in the late 1970s, who first thought they could change the world and then had to flee cruel dictatorships, solidarity was fundamental to our survival. I grew up with the feeling that children were everyone’s responsibility. And now it was my turn to raise a child away from my family.
Coyote became, among other things, a contemporary version of the proverb “It takes a village to raise a child.” It is a town made up of people from all walks of life and different cultures who, however, all care about that crucial and fragile phase of life that is childhood. Towards the end of the writing process, I realized that I had written a film in which individuals, all very different, are connected through the character of the boy, forming an indispensable network around him.
the characters in Coyote they are different facets of myself; They are fragments of my life. It is the opposite of an alter ego, which I explored in my first feature film, roads in february (2018). Through Coyote, my fragmented life and my world are represented by different characters and stories and everything becomes coherent, complete. As if this film were a way of making sense of a life shaped by multiple migrations and multiple belongings. Writing is rewriting.
I have become increasingly exasperated by the way Latinos are portrayed in Quebec on film and television. More often than not, they are portrayed as hard-working immigrants whose main ambitions are to feed their families or gain legal status. Mexicans, in particular, seem to live only in this social imaginary as submissive, destitute, almost illiterate temporary workers.
This stereotype does not reflect the contribution of Latin American immigrants to our culture. Worse yet, it shows us an immigrant whose ambitions and desires are elementary and devoid of complexity. Camilo, the main character of Coyotecarries a story that can speak to everyone on a level that is universal and unrelated to their immigration.
Camilo is not young. His life is not easy. But he doesn’t give up. Increasingly, we see middle-aged and even older main characters in movies and on television. Our culture’s obsession with youth seems to be giving way. This is particularly significant because youth occurs during a small part of our lives and has been repeatedly presented as the defining moment when we “become”. As if identity were something that crystallizes once and for all, and as if everything that happened after youth was a continuous and repetitive path.
However, the wonderful thing about life is that it can start over many times as we learn, change, and reinvent ourselves. Camilo dreams of a new beginning at an age when you no longer expect it, and he is not alone in this.
This year’s Toronto International Film Festival runs from September 8-18. Find Coyote schedules here.