Young Mexican Filmmaker in Hong Kong Debuts Her First Short Film – “For Her”

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‘For Her’, the first short film by Valeria Riquelme, will premiere in Hong Kong this Saturday, July 17, after featuring at the Lift-Off Global Network Tokyo Festival 2021.

We spoke with Valeria, who is based in Hong Kong, to get to know her views on Mexico, Hong Kong, and her first short film.

Q:  Having been born in Mexico and living in Hong Kong for a few years, which place do you feel more connected to?

V: A mix of both. I moved to Hong Kong when I was 13. I was old enough to feel Mexican but young enough to feel like I am now from Hong Kong. Without realizing it, I grew up in two places at the same time, and thus their pains and glories, their struggles and happenings filtered themselves into my identity. As I wrote For Her I realized the veins and arteries of the project spread across these two places, these two cultural realms.

Q: What part of your connection to Mexico inspired you to make this film?

V: Through my phone’s screen, I saw women in Mexico crying for help. I saw them together on the streets. I heard them singing, shouting, pleading. I went back to Mexico in December to see my family and felt the fear in the voices of women around me. I heard their conversations full of anger and desire for change. And I sat in silence, thinking: how can I contribute to this movement from a place literally on the other side of the world?

Back in Hong Kong, no one talked about what was going on in Mexico. The news got scrambled in the daily mix of world disasters and dilemmas. But the momentum for cultural deconstruction and change had left a deep impression on me, and I held on to it. At the same time, I saw – and still see– Hong Kong as a place craving for creative outlets, and it is up to us, the younger generation of artists, to push for creativity in a city asphyxiated by constant work, time, and spatial pressures.

And so the For Her project came along.

Q: Do you think your film is about sexual violence in a specific place or more as a concept?

It was never a film about violence against women in Mexico: there is no explicit connection that may link the project to my home country. Nevertheless, it is deeply interconnected to the issue, for it focuses on dealing with trauma. Recognizing, understanding, and talking about something that hurts you so deeply can be extremely challenging. Facing the truth and putting it into words thus becomes a fundamental step towards healing. The contrary —holding things in for fear of judgment or shame — can make you feel extremely alone. In a way, this loneliness, this lack of support and connection (which we take for granted in Mexican culture) is part of what I want to bring to Hong Kong. For Her (the film itself but also its entire creative process)is my first contribution to develop healthy creative outlets and communities in Hong Kong’s culture.

Q: Do you think films dealing with violence against women, especially those made by women themselves, can change the reality for the victims, or the way society deals with the issue?

That is the question. I don’t know. Will yet another story about sexual abuse merely dilute and get lost, becoming part of the background noise of our hectic culture? It most probably will. But I believe this noise still reaches people, it touches and transforms our minds, in the same way that I was transformed by watching Mexican women fighting for justice. So if this story can give a voice to at least one person out there –in Hong Kong, Mexico, or anywhere else in the world–  making it will have been worth it.

Q: Do you have any words for other young filmmakers and artists who are beginning to create their work?

V: Look for help. People with more experience are more often than not open to help out with those who are just starting out. Don’t be afraid to say “I don’t have any experience, but I’m happy to learn”. Most of all: fall in love with your work. No one is going to buy into a project if you don’t fully believe in it.

Q: After this film, are you currently working on other projects or what do you plan to do next?

I was once told a movie’s life begins once it is out into the world for people to watch. For the next year I want to focus on sharing this project with various audiences, using it as a starting point to engage in conversations about trauma and sexual violence. In the future, I hope to find more opportunities to tell stories that connect, move, and inspire the world. 

‘For Her’ premieres on Saturday, July 17 at the Meng Wah Complex Theatre 1, HKU

Valeria Riquelme, founder of the production house Tinta Limited, is a Mexican filmmaker and multimedia artist. Valeria began her career in the arts with the one-woman show “So I Went”. With the support of Hong Kong Academy and the International Schools Theatre Association, she wrote, directed, and performed the play in 2019. Her debut short film “For Her” premiered at the Tokyo Lift-Off Film Festival and will continue in the festival circuit throughout the year. Currently, Valeria studies for a Bachelor of Arts at The University of Hong Kong.