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Michel Franco on April's Daughters


Interview and text: Martin I. Petrov 


After receiving the Uncertain Regard award for After Lucia in 2012 and competing for the Palm D’or with Chronic in 2015, Mexican director Michel Franco returns in this year's festival with April’s daughters, a family drama starring Emma Suárez (Julieta). 


A contemporary take on Mexican middle class, Franco writes and directs a story about a young 17 year old who drops out of school after an unexpected pregnancy. Dealing with the scary thoughts of becoming a young mother and with no set plans for the future, young Valeria has one more challenge to confront - the return of her mother Abril, who reveals a new and unexpected side, this of motherly, supportive and caring figure - promising to stand by her daughter in her new life. 


When soon after the birth of the baby, Abril’s obsessive complexes make their way back to surface and she decides that Valeria is unable to make choices for life yet, the relationship between mother and daughter takes a dangerous turn, swirling all characters in a funny game of trust, betrayal, inclusiveness and the ability to claim second chances. 


Michel Franco puts in the epicentre the modern family, the vulnerability of its fluid character, its hierarchy and dynamics and unfolds the issues of single parenting, abortion, the battle between tradition and contemporary as well the contrast between youth and the inability to cope with ageing and taking responsibility. 


The story is a mix of two ideas, this of how reluctant some adults can be about accepting age and the one of teenage motherhood and young mothers. Mexico is an interesting country when it comes to family, considering that kids can stay home until the age of 30, sometimes even until later. Family ties are so much different from the western world, so even creating a second family within the family and having kids is seen from a different perspective and the influences and norms are different too. Parents sometimes try to be overly controlling over their children’s lives;’ comments Franco on April’s daughters. 


For him, female characters were always more interesting to explore, hence here he focuses on two strong female leads. ‘I am a man, so it is more intriguing to explore the other side, the female perspective. It is also much harder for women in life. They have to be beautiful, have to be good mothers, and if they make mistakes they are always criticised more than men. Women are more challenged socially.’  



Teen pregnancy and abortion have been in the epicentre of discussions in many countries around the world and it is in the core of April’s daughters. In Mexico, it is quite common for teenage girls to get pregnant while still at school and be forced to have a family at a young age. ‘I am not here to give people my view on things. I observe as a director, but I want to give the freedom to my audience to make their own decisions. I am not trying to use symbols; most of the times things come naturally during the process of making the film and I haven’t planned them in advance.’ The Mexican director makes references to the original scene, with a film set in a heavily religious country. ‘Creating a film comes from the heart and success really depends on how much you believe in your project sometimes.’  


All the characters in April’s daughter are seeking atonement, looking for second chances and trying to make up for the past. ‘That’s life basically, when you love some you also damage them without knowing sometimes. None of the characters in the film has bad intentions. We make mistakes in life and we need to keep on going, regardless if we learn or not. April is a mother and there is nothing that can compare to that experience; and mothers make mistakes. For the Mexican family, mothers are sacred.’  


Franco saw Emma Suárez in Pedro Almodovar’s Julieta and immediately proposed the part of April to her. ‘She initially called me and said she can’t do it. But then, when I said - ok, thanks for reading the script, I’ll send you another one sometime in the future - she was like - wait, give me 3 days to think about it. And then she called me with a positive answer of course. You should never force your actors or anybody else to do something they are not ready for or interested in. It will just not deliver the right results, cause making a film is a long process and we need to be 100% in. We met in NYC when Emma was promoting Julieta and we spent five days talking about the film, drinking and discussing the character. After, she came to Mexico and I gave her space to meet the rest of the cast and develop their own relationship, without my influence.’  


Michel Franco is always trying to answer important questions about life in his film and research deeper the human psychology. I’ always try to answer questions that are important to me and that will help me become better and discover more about who I am. And this keeps changing, you know. It’s like seeing a film now and then again in five years, it’s never the same.’ 


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