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Two stars from Alejandro González Iñárritu’s latest film reflect on life in and out of their beloved Mexico.
FOR ACTORS XIMENA Lamadrid and Íker Sánchez Solano, their new movie, “Bardo,” not only represents what they love about Mexico — the people, the language, and the landscape — but the process of creating it has also connected them more deeply to their sense of home and place. Both actors describe the Alejandro González Iñárritu–directed comedy-drama as incredibly intuitive and fluid, with scenes flowing into each other like emotional tributaries. “Bardo” is an existential and surreal tale of epic proportions about a Mexican documentary filmmaker living in Los Angeles, who returns to Mexico after winning a prestigious award. It’s also the first film Iñárritu — acclaimed for past gems like “The Revenant,” “Birdman,” and “Amores Perros” — has made in his homeland in 22 years. According to Solano, the work has “a funny and passive way of telling really important things about what’s going on in our country.”
Lamadrid speaks to me via Zoom from her serene and sunlit apartment in Mexico City, a place she has called home for the last three years. She’s just returned from a facial and nail appointment before embarking on a trip to Milan to attend some fashion shows — this on the heels of the Venice Film Festival premiere of “Bardo.” Lamadrid has a delightfully genuine way of speaking about the exciting whirlwind her life has become: Most recently, at the Telluride Film Festival, she met actress Cate Blanchett who, with tears in her eyes, expressed to Lamadrid and her co-stars that “Bardo” deeply moved her. “Cate Blanchett is just one of the most incredible women ever,” says Lamadrid. “I was like, ‘What is happening?’”
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‘I’m so proud of being Mexican. I’m so proud that I sound Mexican now. It’s a part of me. An amazing part of me.’
“Bardo” holds a mirror up to Lamadrid. Camila, her character in the film, returns to Mexico to reconnect with her heritage after living in Los Angeles for most of her life. Lamadrid talks about the magnetic pull of the country that she and her character feel. “It’s a cultural thing when you come to Mexico,” she says. “You want to connect with the people. You want to reconnect with your past. There’s a nostalgic sort of energy here.” Lamadrid was born in Cancún, but her family moved to Dubai when she was 2 months old for her father’s career as a pilot. Growing up so far removed from her country of origin meant her parents took extra care to instill Mexican culture in her and her younger brother. Lamadrid lovingly recounts watching home videos where they speak in Spanish to one another and make chilaquiles on the weekends.
While on holiday in Mexico City after attending New York University’s Tisch School of the Arts, she made some connections that led her to obtain professional representation and eventually land the role of the titular character in the popular Netflix series “Who Killed Sara?” The actress assumed she would start her career in Los Angeles or New York, but the pieces came together at the perfect time in CDMX. “It just unrolled in a really amazing way for me,” Lamadrid says.
While in Mexico, her management told her she should work on her Spanish. Lamadrid was resistant at first, as she believed her Spanish was good enough and thought she would be mainly acting in English. But after taking classes to improve her vocabulary and accent, the actress feels different. The lessons helped her feel grounded for her new role in “Bardo.” “I’m so proud of being Mexican. I’m so proud that I sound Mexican now,” she says. “It’s a part of me. An amazing part of me.”
Lamadrid’s co-star Íker Sánchez Solano is going through a similarly formative moment. When we speak, he has just returned from a 20-day European vacation with his mother and girlfriend, “taking advantage of the Venice Festival trip,” he admits. For Solano, acting has taken him out of Mexico for the first time in his life and opened the world to him. “I’m really excited to learn. I’m going to start to explore myself deeper and deeper now,” Solano tells me via Zoom from Mexico City, leaning into the laptop camera with a delighted expression. “I think that’s going to open me up to a lot of possibilities.”
Solano’s journey to “Bardo” and this ever-expanding new life is markedly different from that of his co-star. Solano grew up in Baja California, Mexico, playing outdoors and creating imaginative fantasies. “I didn’t have a TV until I was 12,” he says, mostly because his parents said they did not want him to waste time in front of a screen. His love of the natural world is evident throughout our conversation, as he describes the awe-inspiring views at the top of La Malinche, an active volcano in Puebla and Tlaxcala. Solano surfs in his hometown of Cabo San Lucas and gushes over the beauty of the peninsula’s beaches and deserts, where “Bardo” was filmed. “I am really familiar with nature, and that’s what I’ve been pursuing to connect with my whole life,” Solano says. He attributes this familiarity and love for the environment to his country’s reverential relationship with conservation and the land. “[In] Mexico, we are really connected to it,” he says.
Solano’s foray into acting began at his school, which put on plays. He found he loved to perform in them, and soon after, his parents enrolled him in theater classes. He was cast in independent films throughout high school and then a Netflix project, which did not end up taking off. Despite the challenge, the journey shifted Solano’s perspective and cemented his passion for acting. “I felt like I found a treasure inside of me,” he says. “It was amazing to feel that.”
Solano and Lamadrid play siblings in “Bardo” and, coincidentally, have some real-life connections. For example, Lamadrid’s mother is from Valle de Bravo, the same small town where Solano was born. Moments of interconnectedness like these also recur throughout the film as it strings together themes of identity, life, death, and Mexican history. Lamadrid has a changed perspective after making the film — a new view into how people and places connect in incalculable, endlessly complex ways. “We’re all from different places [but] our bloodlines are all mixed up,” she explains. “It’s intriguing.”
The night before our interview, Lamadrid saw “Bardo” with her brother, the musician Julian Lamadrid. This proved to be a surreal and powerful experience for the siblings: Not only was their family structure reflected on the big screen, but Lamadrid also portrays someone whose fictional life blurs with her own. She and Camila share a nostalgia for a country they never really lived in and an ardent desire to reconnect with those roots. It’s fitting, as “Bardo” is a hypnagogic film whose main character is on an existential odyssey where memory and fantasy blend with reality. Lamadrid waxes poetic about the power of Iñárritu’s narrative mastery to make audiences feel things deeply, personally, and dramatically. “[‘Bardo’] is everything. It’s so bravely done. It’s bravely human, bravely artistic, bravely political,” she states. “Being a part of something like this is revolutionary for me.”
Juan Velasquez is a writer and musician based in Los Angeles. Velasquez is the editorial business manager for Them and Teen Vogue. His writing has appeared in Them, where he also curates the “Queer Music Monthly” playlist, which gives voice to LGBTQ+ artists.
Santiago Sierra Soler was born and raised in Mexico City. Educated in the classical arts of painting, music, and performance, he’s pursued a career that spans photography, film, and art direction. He has collaborated with numerous renowned clients and publications, including HBO, Chanel, Dior, Nike, Estée Lauder, Swarovski, Carolina Herrera, Maybelline, Diesel, i-D, Vogue, and Interview magazine. Sierra Soler is based between New York City and Mexico City, working on script writing and his passion for animals and environmental projects.
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