CAMINO: An Action Thriller Trek Through The Jungle With A Female Badass
Much like its central figure, CAMINOisn’t the film you think it is. It begins with celebrated reporter Avery Taggert winning a prestigious award for photojournalism. She is offered an assignment deep in the jungles of Colombia to follow a mysterious missionary who calls himself El Guero. When Avery captures a fateful act on camera and learns that El Guero is not the benevolent figure he poses as, the film becomes a dark chase to get at the truth of that image.
It sounds like the film could fall into several categories; a satire on the American upper class celebrating war photography without considering the dire consequences of the images; an action thriller with a chase through the jungle and several creative deaths; or a social commentary on the drug cartels of the eighties and a nod to the genre films spawned by that.CAMINO may have hints of all three of these, but with badass Tarantino leading lady Zoë Bell at the helm and the idiosyncratic Nacho Vigalondo playing an understated psychopath, it defies conventions and easy labeling. I cringed at the scene when the naive white photojournalist seemed at the mercy of a fierce Colombian drug lord, until I remembered it was Zoë Bell and watched her gain the upper hand in an intensely physical battle from which the camera never wavered.
Genre film fans will have fun watching Vigalondo monologue about his importance to the people, or watching the many fight scenes that are filmed very old-school, with few cuts and many intense close-ups. However, there are serious touches that elevate CAMINOin the genre: the fact that it features many genuine wartime photographs, as well as the scenario that happens all too often in the real world of a dangerous outsider taking power. Perhaps the biggest thing that sets it apart in the genre is that a female photojournalist kicks some serious ass and comes across as heroic, even though she has her own losses and challenges. These challenges are revealed in a somewhat supernatural aspect to the film that makes her character richer and more nuanced.
CAMINO will suck you in and entertain you, but it probably will also make you think about where some of those beautiful photojournalism images come from, and how much power an image truly has.
XLrator Media will be releasing the film in theaters on March 4th and on VOD and iTunes March 8th. Following is an interview I conducted with director Josh C. Waller.
Daily Grindhouse: What inspired the story for the film? I read a good friend of yours was a war photographer, and his pictures are featured in the film.
Josh Waller: It began around rough concepts about a photographer who takes an iconic photograph that she shouldn’t have taken and then treks through the jungle to get away. And since we had a small budget, we shot the film in Hawaii. My friend Zoriah Miller took many of the real photographs from wartime situations, which is why the film is dedicated to the victims in the end.
Daily Grindhouse: I also heard the lead role in the film was originally planned for a man. How do you think it changed the tone of the film when you cast Zoë Bell as the lead?
Josh Waller: Well, I didn’t want to make a movie about someone running through the jungle that I’d seen several times already. As far as changing the film, you don’t write specifically for a woman, that would be pandering. But there is a stigma in action movies, where men tend to be a badass, and women are more emotional.
Daily Grindhouse: You also decided to set the film in the ‘eighties. Was this a nod to the similar genre films at the time, or was that because the drug cartels were more active at that time, or both?
Josh Waller: It was set in Colombia in the ‘eighties because of the drug cartels. Also, it made sense in a primitive way because there were no technological advancements during that time like cell phones. I also felt like this was a golden era of filmmaking, when filmmakers were really pushing the boundaries of what you could do.
Daily Grindhouse: There is a supernatural aspect introduced in the film with Avery’s character and the loss of her husband. How was this important to developing her character and her backstory?
Josh Waller: It was important to give the character some emotion, so she wasn’t a total badass. She has her own vulnerability and emotional hurdles. We shot some more scenes with Daniel, but they didn’t really fit. It was more important to see her processing it.
Daily Grindhouse: I thought it was an interesting choice that although you see Avery taking out almost everyone in the cartel, Guillermo’s death comes about indirectly, through the photograph she took. Why do you think that’s important to the story?
Josh Waller: I think it’s important that Avery was put in a compromised position for awhile, that she didn’t think she’d survive. I also didn’t want to make it something like the good guy wins. I felt like it was this thing where the natives of the country want to protect their own. There is a dangerous outsider who comes in, which happens a lot, and it was important to put the power in their hands and give a voice to the people.
Daily Grindhouse: You’ve worked with both Zoë Bell and Nacho Vigalondo before. What is your working relationship like?
Josh Waller: Awesome. When you’re working with your friends, there is a mutual respect, which is important because filmmaking is 100 percent collaborative. I surround myself with artists who are more talented than I am, and give them a lot of creative freedom and trust. That makes a really smart environment when you are working on a micro budget.
Daily Grindhouse: Let’s talk about the score. It did create more of a thriller tone with those intense strings.
Josh Waller: We were very inspired by Bernard Hermann, and pieces of the SICARIO score and the VERTIGO score. I feel like we wanted a very organic and natural score for the jungle setting. A John Carpenter synth score may have fit, but wouldn’t have had that feel.