About the Film
Soleil is a teenage girl struggling to fit in with her foster family in the United States. After a traumatic event forces Soleil to run away, she travels alone to Guatemala in search of her biological family. She arrives in Latin America, with a sense of excitement and fear, but quickly gets lost searching for leads on her family's whereabouts. As she thinks about her next move, Soleil meets a mysterious young girl that leads her through the village, and disappears into a house. She follows the little girl inside, but instead of finding the young girl, she discovers the secret to her family's past.
Filming "Soleil' came along with many making of stories like the film getting sent to the wrong location (even though we paid extra to insure its arrival), important luggage being misplaced by the airlines (including the camera changing bag), two car accidents (thankfully no one was hurt), a crew member driving down stairs thinking they were a street, our bus breaking down, and the Director of Photography passing out in the airport on his way home. The list continues.
All in all it was a crazy incredible and amazing experience, and my favorite making of story happened during the last shot of the last day.
Our bus broke down for the second time, and we were a half a mile away from our final shooting location. We were losing light, so I grabbed some equipment (we had to clear out the bus) and starting running down the street with my two leads and my crew. I remember my boom operator yelling to me, "Give me the mic and just go!" I tossed him the case and grabbed the hands of "Soleil" and "Little Soleil" as we ran through the crowded streets in Mexico on Good Friday.
We finally made it to our shooting location where the rest of the crew was waiting, but it wasn't the right spot. I was confused, and the DP told me he was ready and we had to go. I told him we were supposed to be around the corner, but then the sound mixer piped in and told me to just take the shot. My crew had been so wonderful this entire time and all of a sudden they were mutineing against me! I stepped aside with the AD, almost in tears, and he tried to comfort me, also insisting we take the shot. "Fine!" I yelled. I stomped back to the set, not realizing all the little cameras filming me. The DP called rolling, and one of my Producers/boyfriend, Emmanuel, told my actress to walk straight. All I was thinking was "what is this going to cut to" ? Then Emmanuel yelled "Cut!" I put my head in my hands and started laughing and blushing. They tricked me, and they were filming the whole entire thing! Emmanuel started thanking everyone for being on this journey with us, but then suddenly he turned to me. He took my hands, and then it clicked. Oh my goodness! He was going to ask me to marry him! He did, and of course I said yes. Everyone cheered, and it was such a wonderful ending to an amazing collaboration with incredible people.
"Soleil" is a project that grew from many different stories and from many different people melded together. The idea originated when I visited Guatemala as a young teenager and had my first taste of life outside of Minnesota. Through the people I met, I learned about the affects of the civil war and about "los desaparecidos" (missing ones): the people who had gone missing or were killed in massacres during their 36-year long civil war. I learned about the 1998 assassination of Bishop Juan Gerardi, who was killed after issuing a report on army massacres during the civil war. As I grew up, I continued to hear stories from not just Guatemala, but from many other Latin-American countries facing similar social unrest, as well as violence and poverty. Today Guatemala has one of the highest homicide rates in the western hemisphere, and out of last year's 6,200 murders, only 2% were solved.
Another inspiration came from a friend of mine, who never was able to obtain any pictures of her as a child because she was adopted from Chile. She has always wondered what she looked like as a baby. Simple things that we might take for granted, like never having a baby picture or not knowing your biological parents, were inspirations for telling this story.
About the Filmmaker
Jessica McMunn Macias is a native of Minneapolis, Minnesota who discovered her passion for storytelling after directing her first play at 16. After garnering her B.F.A. in theatre from the University of Wisconsin, La Crosse she was accepted into the prestigious School of Theater, Film, and Television at UCLA. She is now in the process of completing her M.F.A. in Directing at UCLA.
Her short film "Soleil" was awarded the Director's Guild of America 2009 Jury Prize. "Soleil" was also chosen by an industry panel to be showcased at the 2009 UCLA Festival of New Creative Works at the Director's Spotlight event. Jessica is currently in pre-production for her thesis film "Marco and Gabrielle", and in production of "Detroit Summer Revolution", an exciting project tackling the nation's education reforms under the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation.
She has worked as an administrator at the US Performing arts/UCLA Arts Workshops, working alongside such professionals as Myrl Schreibman, Philip Charles MacKenzie Maggie Murphy, and many more. Jessica has also been under the mentorship of Betty Kaplan and Joan Churchill, A.S.C. She has received numerous awards including the James Bridges Award in Film Directing (2009), The Verna Fields Memorial Fellowship (2009), The Mary Pickford Award in Documentary Filmmaking (2008 and 2009), The Jack Nicholson Distinguished Director Award (2008) and the Motion Picture Association of America Award (2006).