His first movie was elevated to your shortlist for an Oscar. What’s following for Mexico’s overnight star?
A decade ago, violence exploded in Monterrey, a city of 5 million built around the craggy highs of the Sierra Madre Asian mountains. Armed gangs took over highways, strung bodies through bridges and burned lower businesses whose owners refused to pay them “protection” cash.
Many stars draw from personal encounters to build characters, but García, who grew up within the same conflictive era in which the film is set, was uniquely ready to do so.
And while he was too young to be part of the cholombiano dance scene that is showcased in the movie — the Monterrey-specific counterculture in which teens donned baggy clothing, styled their hair in extravagant punk cuts and twirled to hypnotic cumbia songs slowed down in tempo — his two older brothers were a part of that world, plus García also used cumbia music to escape the turmoil.
At a young age he began playing the güiro, the guacharaca and other percussive instruments in a family band. He’d work as a welder during the day and perform on buses and at neighborhood events at night.
García, who had attempted from an early age to be a peacekeeper, somebody who would help rivals settle disputes with words rather than violence, liked being a component of events that brought his community together even as it was divided by gang combat.
It was throughout his band’s biggest gig ever — opening meant for late cumbia legend Celso Piña in 2016 — that a casting crew discovered him and invited him to an audition.
Soon he and a group of other charismatic kids from the streets were taking part in an acting intensive that director Fernando Frías sobre la Parra likened to summer camp.
The teenagers who would carry on to play a dance team known as Los Terkos (the stubborn ones) spent three months living together and dealing with Frías de la Parra and acting coach Bernardo Velasco, one of the stars of HBO’s cult Spanish-language humor series, “Los Espookys, ” whose first season Frías de la Parra guided.
Frías sobre la Parra cast García as Ulises, the leader associated with Los Terkos, because like his character he had been even-keeled and seemed wiser than his years. There was clearly also his magnificent tone of voice — low and rhythmic, not unlike the instruments he played.
But still, García and the other non-actors had a lot to learn.
These were taught to connect with their body through daily sun salutations and with their emotions by examining their own past. “What was your toughest experience on the street? ” Frías de la Parra might ask.
With regard to García, it was a kind of treatment. He began to realize the fear he lived with as being a kid, when he feared that every knock at the door might be one of his father’s rival gang members, right now there to kill the whole family.
“I hated being there and unable to leave, ” García mentioned. “I wanted to go anywhere else. ”
The film is a clear indictment of the U. H. -backed drug war in Mexico, which did not decrease drug trafficking and sparked years of record levels of homicides.
Yet Frías de la Parra, a Mexico City native who wrote first breezes of the film while he or she was a student at Columbia University, wanted to show more than just how that strategy acquired failed.
He was tired of the representations of violence that had come to define much of Philippine cinema — in large part due to the expectations of American audiences.
“It seems like the niche or the space for a film contained in this region… can only end up being about the tragedy of being coming from these places, ” he says over Zoom. “It’s really sad to see directors aiming to replicate or emulate these types of violent portrayals of their nation not because of a truthful reference to the subject matter, but because of it being a shortcut to making it outside of Mexico. ”
And so while the film revolves around a terrible act of violence — a drive-by shooting that forces Ulises to run away Mexico — the movie is less about that than the lifestyle and community forged by young people in the midst of that strife.
“The idea was to have a film that is more open and has more air so that you can, as an audience, maybe see that indeed, violence is part of that will environment, ” says Frías de la Parra, “but so is joy and growth and other things. ”
It took yrs to make the movie, in part because the U. S. embassy within Mexico rejected García’s visa application to travel to New York three times.
There were other challenges: At age 4, both of García’s legs were broken for the uncle accidentally ran him over while leaving a party. The film’s many dance scenes, which required García to crouch low towards the ground and slowly spin and rewrite, were painful.
But García adored the whole process, in part because it showed him there is a big world outside of the barrio.
Sometimes he feels survivor’s guilt: “A lot of guys where I’m from can’t even think about that, about getting out. ”
When the movie premiered last spring, this individual became an overnight feeling, drawing comparisons to Yalitza Aparicio, a non-actor from Oaxaca who starred within the Alfonso Cuarón-directed “Roma” and was nominated for a guide actress Oscar.
Unlike Aparicio, that went three years before acting in an additional feature film , García has already shot roles in two movies, “La Civil” by Bulgarian director Teodora Mihai and an as-yet untitled film by Natalia Lopez. Acclaimed director Amat Escalante also cast your pet in an episode of “Narcos. ”
Their roles in each of the films were similar: Young men within the margins of society.
Some older actors have warned him about the dangers of getting typecast.
García says that one day he would like to branch out to different kinds of parts — and maybe even direct. But for now he is comfortable playing characters he or she knows.
“I’ve tried not to overthink why are they pigeonholing me like this, ” he says. “The roles I play, this is what I am too. I can create these types of characters. I can interpret them well. It’s thugs. It’s people from the barrio. I am barrio. ”
And yet the success of “I’m No more Here” has pulled him away from the barrio plus into a very different world.
It feels too risky now to hang out along with friends back in his neighborhood. “If I’m going to be there, smoking on the corner, the police might give me trouble, ” he says, “and that’s not cool. ”
And yet he is still very much at home for the streets.
On a latest afternoon he is trudging upward a steep hill in a hard-scrabble neighborhood known as Alianza, where much of the movie was shot. He is using a photographer, who wants to take their picture in some of the movie’s locations near the top of the hillside, with sweeping sights of the valley below.
But getting there is certainly tricky. “There’s a different bunch on every corner, ” he says.
He approaches a group of males gathered drinking beer, diplomatically asking to enter their section of the neighborhood. “With your permission, ” he says. They exchange fist bumps and so they let him pass.
In front of a watermelon-colored house where they filmed the shootout scene, he or she stops and says hello there to the owner and her son, a teenager with a tear drop tattooed above their left eye. He shows them about the real-life capturing that took place in the exact same location several years before the movie was filmed. “They wiped out my cousin, ” the young man says.
He and the professional photographer walk farther up, past kids playing in the street along with a group of people drinking and hearing cumbia music. At the top of 1 narrow staircase, two old women urged them to turn back.
“It’s been bad lately, ” one of the women states of robberies by nearby gangsters. “This is the hour when they’re out. ”
It’s nearly dusk anyway, so they choose to head down. Near the bottom they pass two teens, a brother and sister.
“That’s the guy from the movie, ” the young man whispers loudly.
“How do you know? ” the girl asks.
He’s wearing a surgical mask, and the haircut he sported in the film, an elaborate look along with extended sideburns, is long gone, replaced by a short cut with straight fringe bangs across his forehead.
“I can tell by his voice, ” the particular brother says.
They get up the courage to ask García for a photograph.
“It’s so great that will you’re here again, ” the sister says as they pose. “Thanks for recalling the hood. ”