For her film Calavera Highway, filmmaker Renee Tajima-Peña turned her camera to her husband Armando and the rest of his family as they deal with the death of their mother, Rosa, and their complicated family history. Her co-filmmaker, Evangeline Griego, collaborated with her, and they filmed Armando and his brother Carlos on a journey across the American West and Central Mexico where they delved into the past and struggled to find their own identities as men and fathers.
Renee talked about the unique experience of filming her own husband and family in her POV filmmaker interview:
I’ve been filming Armando and his family for many years, particularly when Rosa started to decline with lung cancer. So this film is so intensely focused on their family, and casting a lens on them as they were going through heart-wrenching moments and questions was really tough.
And Evangeline chimed in with her observations:
There were times when we needed to stop and reflect about which road we were going to take. We had several conversations about reminding Renee that this was her husband and her family that she was filming. Ultimately, she had to present this film to the entire family. If you’re just a filmmaker, you can remove yourself in certain situations and really push for things, but when it’s affecting your family and your life, you have to really stop and think.
Read more from Renee and Evangeline‘s interview, and find out about the Peña brothers reactions to being filmed, the inspiration for the project and more.
Renee and Evangeline answered viewer questions about the music in the film, Armando’s biological father and more in the comments below. Read on for their responses.