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Tune of the Day: ‘Mar Iguana’ Director Lorena Endara Explains How Power Rangers Helped Inspire the Visuals

[dropcap size=big]T[/dropcap]here’s a type of feeling you get when watching director Lorena Endara’s Super 8mm music video for É Arenas stoner anthem Mar Iguana. It’s sort of like eating an edible and throwing on Pink Flamingo. Or if John Waters directed an episode of Power Rangers.

Maybe that’s why Univision decided to back out of premiering the video, Endara told L.A. Taco. It was too much of a stoner portrait. Ironically, the song and video touch on the stigma of marijuana, even in the legal weed capital.

The song by Chicano Batman bassist É Arenas is about a pot smoking reptile, Endara explained. “It’s literally about a marine iguana who loves smoking weed but has a deep-rooted worry about his friends who are locked up for related crimes despite the fact that California recently legalized the use of recreational marijuana.”

Her vision, is as inventive and fun as the song, the title of which is a play on words. A mar iguana translates to an iguana of the sea but it’s also a playful way to say “marijuana”.

Originally from Panama City, Endara is a member of FotoFéminas, a collective of female photographers from Latin America. She spoke with L.A. Taco about her visual inspiration for the video, which includes her love for Los Angeles and the Mighty Morphin Power Rangers!

LA TACO: What inspired the piece?

LORENA ENDARA: The Mar Iguana video was inspired by Power Rangers, Chico Che music videos, Buffalo 66’s editing style, and the city of Los Angeles.

How long did it take to film and produce? 

Not very long. We had the idea to make the music video in late December of 2017. A month later, we wrote the script in a day and then went into pre-production mode. Eduardo was in charge of casting and I was getting all the props and equipment. The biggest challenge was finding quebradita dancers; we heard a lot of jokes about Bengay. Eduardo’s cousin, Leticia Leon, had about two weeks to make all the costumes and then we got to film for two days in early February. We had two pretty full days of shooting all around Los Angeles. We were shooting is Super 8 so by the end of the first day of filming we had lost the sunlight that we needed. We had to reschedule with all the actors and do the last scene, the epic escape scene, again on Sunday. Shooting was overall pretty quick as we were on a budget and only filmed 17 minutes total to make the 3 minute and 20 second video. Getting into costumes and make up was the biggest time consumer.  

Can you walk us a little through the process of making it? 

Yes, the process is the best part. Eduardo and I spent an afternoon listening to the song and taking notes. First we decided what the overall vision was and how to elevate a quebradita and keep it timeless at the same time. Then we listened to the song a million times and would write down the ideas for each break in the song. I did a lot of drawings and sketches to make sure that Eduardo and I were communicating correctly. After that, I refined the sketches and made a little story board. When Eduardo saw it he had a big smile. The use of color and the locations for the scenes were my top priorities. I always try to impress Eduardo with locations when making videos about L.A.   

What are some of the reactions to the film you received either from average viewers or from people in the Latin communities?

A lot of people say “This needs to go viral!!!!” and I’m like “OK. Please help!! I think the humor really comes across the video and our audiences can connect with that. Our goal was to make a video with a sense of playfulness and a specific style, we wanted to use humor as a tool for communication. We have had a lot of positive feedback and support from the community.

However, we did have a big setback with the release. It was going to be premiered by Univision on all their socials, web, radio, and TV! They were super interested in premiering the music video even before we had filmed it. We agreed to it and then a day before it was going to drop (on 4/20!) a VP at Univision it shut down saying “We’ve had problems in the past with publications that portray marijuana.” We didn’t have a contract with them, it was all based on verbal agreement. It was extremely disappointing.  

What are the next steps if any for the piece? What other projects are you working on?

We have some ideas to keep this Mar Iguana video rolling but there’s so much going on, it’s hard to pick between pushing something that is already done and making new work. Right now I’m creating a photography series about intimacy, belonging, and Latinx identity. It takes place on Lorena Street in Boyle Heights. Some of the images just came out on Vice Magazine but I feel that I need to keep developing this body of work. I’m also excited about an upcoming opportunity to create a photo installation for Quince Night on August 25th.

The concept behind it is to take back your quinces. Instead of presenting girls turned into women to society, it’s going to be about presenting yourself to yourself. It’s about the possibility of one becoming your own true love. I plan to make a surreal, multi-sensorial setting, take people’s portraits, and print out a little “recuerdo” for them right there. I can’t wait!

What do you feel is the status of film for Latinx, female in particular, directors in the business right now? 

It’s hard to say. There isn’t much representation for female identifying Latinx directors. I like the work that afro-Panamanian photographer Kayla Reefer is doing as director of photography. I wish I had more role models available.

RELATED: Tune of the Day ~ Eddie Zuko, ‘Made,’ an Ode to Growing Up Brown in SoCal

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