Every filmmaker has their own personal vision and a unique inner drive that propels them to tell the types of stories they bring to the screen. For Mexican director Alma Jiménez Ochomogo, it comes down to stories that will emotionally impact the audience in hopes of transforming the way they see the world around them.
Still of actress Mariah Astarta in "Hollywood"
Ochomogo’s recent film “Hollywood” is an avante-garde compilation of still images that, as she puts it, tells a story of ‘the pressure of dreams in the place of eternal youth.’
“My inspiration behind ‘Hollywood’ came from small experiences that I had when I first arrived to the EU. It always struck me how the perception of my appearance changed. In Mexico, when I looked in the mirror and compared myself for example to the rest of the people in the gym classes, I looked athletic and thin. When I got [to Los Angeles] and I saw myself in the mirror and saw others, I did not see myself the same,” explains Ochomogo. “My appearance was the same, but the people around me changed and therefore, my perception of myself too. That was the inspiration for Hollywood; the subject of the film is how the environment changes your perception.”
Chosen as an Official Selection of the Miami Independent Film Festival where it screened last month, “Hollywood” follows Niki Sanders, an actress trying to make it in a town where small flaws, such as her barely visible smile lines are singled out, leading her to question her worth in an industry where youth seems to be the only thing of value.
Ochomogo’s filmmaking style centers on bringing to life the types of stories that lead viewers to contemplate their personal perspectives, as well as the lives of those who often fall outside the scope of the ‘norm,’ something that is easy to see from her collective body of work to date.
She admits, “I don’t think there is any filmmaker that doesn’t want to have an effect on people. For some reason, I’m attracted to characters that seem to be on the edge of society. I think one of the reasons is, curiosity of course, but because I feel the need to show them, to make them visible so people can empathize with them.”
From the poignant tale she depicts of a transgender actress in the film “The Play,” which was chosen as an Official Selection of the UK’s Transforming Cinema Film Festival, Los Angeles Women’s Only Film Festival, Los Angeles CineFest and the Hastings Film Fringe Festival, to the dramatic and heart-wrenching film “Monster,” her films are riddled with provoking messages.
In her film “Monster” starring Lia Chapman from the CBS series “Criminal Minds: Beyond Borders,” Pablo Riquelme (“Armangola”) and Kyle Meck (“Dead in the Water”), Ochomogo tells the tale of a teenage boy who, after being ignored and rejected by his friends during a night out on Halloween, takes out his frustration on a homeless woman already suffering from serious mental issues.
“The idea of Monster came from several places, firstly I was struck by the large number of homeless people on the streets of Westwood, I also wanted to touch the theme of Halloween in American culture, as well as the theme of friendship,” explains Ochomogo. “The biggest question was regarding what it means to be a monster and who is the monster in the story. I played with that idea through images in the story. I also wanted to do a project without dialogue, where everything was explained with images and ambient sound.”
Ochomogo recently wrapped production on the upcoming film “A Last Story,” another powerful story that, while slightly easier to swallow than “Monster,” carries a strong and effective message, not to mention an entertaining story with an unexpected twist.
Poster for Alma Jiménez Ochomogo's film "A Last Story"
For “The Last Story,” which is due to release within the next few months and has already been chosen as an Official Selection of the 2018 Creative International Film Festival and 2018 Austin Spotlight Film Festival, Ochomogo was inspired to offer up a story of two Latino characters living and working successfully in Los Angeles. Aside from portraying two Latino leads outside of the stereotypical way they’re often portrayed in Hollywood-- such as those living in the inner city slums and working as maids, busboys and the like, the deeper theme within “The Last Story” centers on forbidden love.
Starring Ilaria Cerini, Nicole Coulon from the six-time Oscar Award winning film “La La Land” and “Law & Order: Special Victims Unit” and Nicolas Gamboa from “Chicago P.D.,” “A Last Story” unfolds after Eliza (Cerini), a production designer, runs into Luis (Gamboa), an upper class diplomat, in a market. Eliza is overcome with surprise by the encounter, as she believed Luis, a former lover who she has strong familial ties to, was still back in Mexico.
The twist as to the real reason their love is so forbidden comes at the end of the film-- but in an effort not to spoil “Staying in Las Vegas,” the follow up film Ochomogo is currently working on, you’ll just have to wait to watch “A Last Story” to find that out for yourself.
The pacing and cinematography in the film, as well as the dialogue, speak to Ochomogo’s strength as a storyteller. She never fails to leave the audience wondering what is going to happen next. Starting her career back home in Mexico, Ochomogo earned a $10,000 scholarship from the Mexican National Fund for Culture and the Arts, an award thousands apply for before and only nine outstanding talents receive. She then moved to the states where she completed her education in film at UCLA, which is considered one of the top three best film schools in the U.S. so you better believe the competition is tough.
Aside from writing most of the films she’s directed to date, she’s also produced a great portion of them; and her experience has given her the seasoned ability to discern the best talents to serve as the department heads and portray the lead characters in her projects.
Actress Iliaria Cerini, who played the lead role of Eliza in the film, says, “Working with Alma was a real pleasure. As a director she created the perfect atmosphere to get the best out of everyone in the team. She helped me with the character and has been the most patient with us actors. I would shoot with her every day!”
Still of actors Ilaria Cerini and Nicolas Gamboa in "A Last Story"
Ochomogo chose Arlene Muller as the cinematographer on “A Last Story,” who was the cinematographer on Primetime Emmy Award winner Kyle Dunnigan’s film “Shit Kids,” which was chosen as an Official Selection of the Special Events program at the 2017 Sundance Film Festival.
While the festival selections are just beginning to roll in for “A Last Story,” Ochomogo is never one to slow down. She is already busy with the pre-production for the film’s sequel “Staying in Las Vegas,” which she says was inspired by a trip she made to the ‘city of sin’ several years ago.
She explains, “I thought I would not like the city, however, I loved the feeling of freedom and equality that I perceived. I noticed that it is a place where no one cares about your past, as long as you can pay for a new future. That is one of the main themes about ‘Staying in Las Vegas.’ The feature raises the question of how far would you go to buy a new future. I also want to pay homage to movies that I really admire like ‘Casino,’ ‘Leaving Las Vegas’ and ‘Indecent Proposal’.”