This is the first day of my production diary for “Rio de oro”. I’ll try to get these posted as often as I can, although internet access is spotty and slow. This is really from March 3rd.
Up dead early, not much sleep, off to the airport for the 6:30 flight to Hermosillo, Sonora. The flight was unevenful, and when I got there, my instructions were to take a taxi to an address in “Cananea”. Not knowing better, I thought this sounded like a 10-15 minute cab ride, but no such luck, Cananea is actually a completely different town, several hours away, so I found a taxi that’s willing to take me, and off I went.
The taxi driver’s named Abundio, and repeatedly asks if I have an iPod or something, because all that’s on the radio is banda and norteña music, which he hates, unlike everyone else in the state. Finally, he fishes out a CD case from the glove box, and we listen to reggaeton and Mexican hip-hop while we drive.
The road is straight and boring, cutting through a slightly hilly desert landscape devoid of anything of particular interest, except for the occasional field of cactus, and some oddly out of place signs. There’s a McDonald’s one, not an ad sign, but the sort of small logo sign you’d expect to see by the entrance to a drive-in McDonald’s. It’s worn and faded, and there’s nothing else around for several kilometers in each direction. The same thing happens again ten minutes later, with a restaurant sign on a high pole, in the middle of nowhere. I consider the possibility of there having been buildings there in the past, but if so, they’re so thoroughly razed that nothing remains, not even a different colored patch on the ground.
That everyone in Northern Mexico drives a pickup truck is something of a cliché, but it would seem it’s also true. I see more pickup trucks, mostly of the moderately large to ridiculously huge variety, on the road than any other kind of vehicle.
I nod off several times, and when we arrive in Cananea after some three and a half hours of driving, it too seems empty and worn out. I go into a supermarket looking for a bathroom, and the shelves are half empty, the produce department sparsely populated only with some dejected looking week-old cabbage. The upper floor of the building holds the office where I’m supposed to meet up with whoever’s taking me to location, and when I get there, the office, that of an accountant, turns out to be the only non-vacant one on that floor, the rest of it empty, just glass doors with old logo stickers on them. I’m later told Cananea is mostly a mining town, and it’s in the middle of a strike that’s lasted more than a year and half now.
I meet up with the driver, and we go off in a truck, first along bits of paved road that gradually becomes more dilapidated, then the asphalt stops, we go along a dirt road that several times dips down to cross dry riverbed. The signs along the road imply that the river flows over the road when it rains, but the landscape shows little sign of that happening lately.
Finally, we arrive at the ranch that’s the production’s home base. It’s actually very nice, something between a hotel and a ranch. I’m told the Reagans stayed here several times, something I chalk up to exaggeration or rumor until, in the living room, I notice a framed photo of Nancy Reagan sitting on the lap of a Mexican cowboy, the ranch in the background. Both are smiling widely. The photo has a cheap plastic label stuck on it, which says, in Spanish, “Sitting in her favorite chair”. I wonder if Ronnie knew.
We leave in the afternoon for a location shoot in the hills, taking off in a couple of pickup trucks and a jeep. The jeep promptly gets a flat tire, runs the tire off the rim, and has to be abandoned. We reorganize people into the remaining trucks and go on.
We’re going to a nature reserve, looking to film some deer. We have some guys out on horses moving them in the right direction, and we’re going to film them as they go by. This turns out to be somewhat more difficult than it sounds, with much moving about and driving trucks up ridges that frankly seem unfit as roads resulting. Finally, just as we’re starting to lose the light, it works, and we get a herd of deer galloping past us at no more than 20-30 meters distance, over the ridge we’re on, and down on the other side. The director is somewhat disappointed there were no male animals in the herd, but otherwise, it seems to have been a success. We set off back to the ranch, chewing on the dust of the truck in front of us all the way.
I enter a coma some time around 9 at night, having slept almost nothing, and having to get up at 5:30 the next morning.