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We had a chance to interview director Alex Kahuam and we talk about his career, inspirations, and upcoming project SO, YOU WANT TO BE A GANGSTER? and much more.

Nuke The Fridge:  You have a long history of writing and creating films but before we get to your latest project, could we talk a little bit about how you got started with your career in filmmaking?

Alex Kahuam:  Absolutely, I started very young, when I was 12 years old.  I made certain experiments with films.  It all started at school when a teacher asked us to do a homework related to kidnapping and I just raised my hand and I asked her if I can do it as a film.  I got together with my friends and without knowing what to do we started shooting with an old VHS camera, the old school kind.  We made the short, our homework, and after that along with my friend Diego Cacho we started to make more movies. We actually made about 25-30 short films.  After that I enrolled in film school in Mexico City.  I didn’t last a long time. I lasted one month because I didn’t like the program and after that, I made my first amateur indie feature film Escondida, which is about a kidnapping. We were able to screen it into theaters in Mexico City. It was really cool.  There was like 180 people and I was like really nervous about it because I was 18 years old and I never screened anything in my life. It turned out to be good. The response from people and then I would like to make it bigger now.  That’s why I moved to Los Angeles and started to shoot on films-  16mm, the 35 mm, and then eventually switched to digital. It’s another language, film than digital.  I really enjoy working on film.

Q: Awesome, among the short films, I read about you.  El Sequestro, The Kidnapping, you made that one at the age of 12?

Alex Kahuam:  Yes, that’s correct

Q: Did you ever think of- Now that there are way more opportunities right now of bringing some of those short films back and making them full length?

Alex Kahuam: Yes, the next feature I’m working on is called Con Vida  and it’s also based on a short film. I want to shoot it in English and here in Los Angeles. The original concept behind the film was to shoot it as found footage, but if we get proper funding I’d like to shoot it as half found footage and half cinematic. Sometimes a cinematic approach is required. Take Alfonso Cuaron’s movies for example, his long takes are unforgettable.

Q: Yea, have you met any inspirational directors?  People that inspired you as a kid and have you gotten a change to meet them, here in the states?

Alex Kahuam: Yes, I met Nicolas Winding Refn.  He did Drive. We’ve met both here and at Cannes. Great guy. I’ve been in the same room as Cuaron, but we’ve never spoken. I’d definitely like to, though.  Edgar Wright is another that I’d like to meet someday, his films are really cool.

Q: You’re originally from Mexico City and what are your friends thinking now that you’re over here making such great strides in your career.  Do you keep in touch?  What kind of feedback are you getting from the Mexican people?

Alex Kahuam: I keep in touch with everyone who helped me in Mexico. A lot of them have been my friends for most of my life. They’re becoming lawyers, architects, professional careers that have nothing to do with films. I’m the only one who decided to pursue filmmaking professionally, so they like being kept in the loop. They’re very excited for every upcoming project. Even though they don’t work on them they love movies, and I’ll always be thankful for all the help they gave me throughout the years.

Q: Your next project looks really good.  I had a chance to check out the trailer.  It’s going to be on VDO (Video on Demand), It’s So, You Wanna Be A Gangster?.  This looks really, really exciting. My type of film.  You know, gangster action flick. Could you talk a little about creating that one and the story line?

Alex Kahuam: Thank you. We originally screened the short at The Cannes Film Festival, and because of the great response we received there I was able to secure private funding from Mexico City. Luckily they liked my pitch. The idea came to me when I noticed people constantly looking at a friend of mine strangely whenever he’d speak Spanish. He’s white, so around here that’s very unusual to people. In Mexico City there are plenty of white Mexicans, so I was fascinated with the reaction that got around Los Angeles. So I decided to make a movie about a guy like that. No one believes he’s Mexican, and he’s always ending up at the wrong place at the wrong time. You’ll see him get kidnapped, get held hostage by a Japanese man who doesn’t even speak English, and get confronted with language barriers that make it much more difficult to get out of dangerous situations. It’s got comedy and action throughout the whole thing. There are small bits of personal experiences in it. The shoot was pretty quick, three weeks and the final cut came out to and hour and 42 minutes.  Overall I think everyone did great, and it was fun to shoot. Production is never without stress, but this was a great experience.

You can follow Alex on Social Media:

Facebook/IG/Twitter: @AlexKahuam

Bio:

Born in Mexico City, Alex Kahuam is the 3rd generation of a Lebanese family who established itself in Mexico. Always curious about the film-making process, he shot his first short “El Secuestro” (The Kidnapping) at age 12 for a school assignment that dealt with the topic. Improvising as he went along, he used firecrackers to simulate explosions and used his friends as actors and received an A+ for such a realistic final project.

He continued making films along with his friend Diego Cacho who served as co-director and editor and had 11 shorts by the time he was 17. After completing high school, Diego traveled to Austin to further his studies in filmmaking and due to the geographical separation from his friend, Alex had to learn how to edit and completed an additional six films.

Alex continued his studies and enrolled in film school in Mexico City, but dropped out after a month due to poor teaching methods. He then went on to write his first feature “Escondida”, which he shot when he was 18 years old. The found-footage film also deal with kidnapping and in addition to writing it, he also served as director, producer and director of photography. He learned so much during the shoot that he often says that the process was a sort of “film school” for him.


In 2012 he moved to Los Angeles to continue learning and improve his craft. He met one of his closest collaborators to date, Director of Photography, Dan Wang. Later that year, he completed his first professional short titled, “So, You Want To Be A Gangster?” which was accepted at Cannes Film Festival in the category of Short-Film Corner in 2014. He then did another short called “What’s in the Case?” along with Dan.

Wanting to pursue a second feature film, Alex began writing and while doing so realized that he had been writing the feature-length version of “So, You Want To Be A Gangster?”, which he completed at age 21. He teamed up with other filmmaker friends and raised money from various investors in Mexico City. Collaborating with Director of Photography, Diego Gilly in this project and using the same actors from his previous short, he shot the film in three weeks. The film will be released on VOD in September 2017. Alex is currently developing his next feature film.