“People worked on the film because they are going to ask me to act in something soon,” Diego Luna says, laughing about the barter system used for his first directorial feature film, Abel, which just premiered at the London Film Festival. “There is no star system in Mexico,” he elaborates, despite shooting to international stardom himself in 2001, when fellow Mexican director Alfonso Cuarón cast him in Y Tu Mamá También.
Luna, following that breakout role, continued his career in Mexico mostly as a producer, but appeared onscreen again as Harvey Milk’s lover in Milk, Gus Van Sant’s Oscar-winning biopic. Launching Canana Films in 2005 with Gael García Bernal, with whom he starred in Y Tu Mamá También, Luna has produced a number of festival-touring films in Mexico. “For me it just seemed natural to produce and now direct. You have more freedom to do that in Mexico,” Luna says of branching out.
Abel is about a mother and her disturbed son, grappling with the absence of his father. It is both funny and moving, and it’s tempting to draw a parallel with Luna’s own life. “The film was something I wanted to make for a long time. And during filming I became a father. I remember when we were writing the scene when Abel kisses his mother, we were laughing. But after my child was born, it didn’t seem funny anymore.”
Also screened at the London Film Festival was a short Luna directed for Revolución, a film about Mexico a century after independence. He is also working on a new script with his Abel co-writer, Augusto Mendoza, and he’s already practicing the ways of a seasoned pro. “I will never work with a deadline again. Next time if it’s not finished, it just won’t screen,” he jokes.