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Majo Aguilar in conversation with Jesús Iglesias of "La Peli De La Semana"
México City, December 28th, 2021
What do social media and films have in common? They both have an impact on society, no matter how big or how small. With social media, many people have decided to show something besides their faces or lives- those that are keen on a particular subject or activity such as makeup or playing an instrument have created accounts to share what they enjoy the most and some of the results are incredibly pleasant for the creator and most of all, the viewer. That’s why on this shiny and cold morning, I’m joined by Jesús Iglesias, creator of “La Peli de la Semana” (translated as Movie of the Week), one of the most beloved films accounts on Instagram, not only by me or my acquaintances, but also by his 81.8 k followers, to talk about some of his views on films, his page and the upcoming season of his podcast.
First of all, Could you give a brief presentation about yourself and tell us how your interest in cinema was born?
Well, I am Jesús, I have a page called Peli de la Semana, it’s an Instagram account that was created three, almost four years ago, and the main idea was to talk about the things I liked. I have always written about films since I was younger, and I’ve been interested in writing. I'm not much of a video blogs or video reviews person, but someone suggested I should create an account and it worked, and now I’m doing a little bit of everything.
I know you have a podcast, which I am a great fan of by the way. I remember a certain episode where you talked about experiences in the cinema. What has been your most surreal experience at a movie theatre?
I haven’t had a lot, haven’t been lucky enough. Except for taking some girlfriend or things like that, nothing has happened to me remotely like what the followers of Peli de la Semana have told me. But I have had certain events, like for example when John Waters (Pink Flamingos, 1972) came [to México], it was a very beautiful thing. Watching a film with him, everyone was excited at the same time and the screening room transformed into a sort of arena where a bunch of people are coexisting. It was almost like going to a wrestling match. It’s things that I’ve seen like what happens in the new Spiderman movie- people shout, the villain appears and everyone gasps, that’s very beautiful.
What was the first thing you did to create Peli de la Semana? How did you start to structure it?
I am not dedicated to this. I am a civil engineer. While pursuing my master's degree, I decided to write a diary. I had never written one before. It was a movie diary because there’s nothing more frustrating than suddenly remembering a film and not being able to recall what was your opinion or what the film’s about because memory tends to fail sometimes. So, to write this diary, I started a Blogspot site called Peli de la Semana- there I uploaded the texts but nobody read them since I never advertised it, it was for myself only. Eventually, some of my friends started reading it, but they were like ten people only, and that’s how it was for years. Two or three years went by without me being interested in anyone reading it, then finally I started to connect with different publications such as Morbido. My texts still had zero circulation but people who knew me read them, it was a thing amongst friends. Now I created different sections because what I identify from social media is that if someone makes a post per week they’re practically dead, if I only did that then I would never let my account grow. That’s why I have a series of sections like interesting facts, opinion columns, stories, brief reviews, movie comics… that’s how the account grows.
Was your podcast something you had planned creating or was it born because of the Instagram account?
I never listen to podcasts! I have never listened to any podcast, but someone suggested that I create one, so I did it and it worked out quite well. As you know, Spotify creates your podcast statistics and mine ended up being very well positioned into the ranking, even though there were only three months of constant activity. Right now I’m working on a whole season which will be launched in January, because before this the podcast consisted of me talking about any subject that came to my mind but the research was minimal, all I used were things I already knew and I gave my opinion on them. I’m interested in using the podcast as a resource to learn new things, now besides my personal opinion, which I always try to make fun. I will work on a solid season starting with a revision of Woody Allen’s trial, which I find interesting since we tend to assume things that aren’t true and it allows me to talk about our way of consuming culture, consuming headlines, cancel culture and related topics throughout five episodes.
Following this topic about your sincere and direct opinions, What are the elements that make a movie a good movie for you?
It’s very subjective. I am not a professional critic and I’m not intended to be one, cinema is not a science. It’s not like if one says something is well done, it is unquestionable that it is well done. For example, one could pick Sight and Sound’s top 10 films that reunites some of the best critics and they always pick Citizen Kane (1941), Vertigo (1958), Battleship Potemkin (1925), name any other movie, but there’s always someone who is going to hate one of them. It’s always very personal. A friend of mine who is a very young film critic and who I think is very good tells me he watches films trying to not stick to the plot, because if he sticks to it then he’s being manipulated. All I think is what a nightmare it would be to watch films like that, I watch them precisely to be manipulated and to prove if the emotional manipulation was good enough or not, of course, there’s also the aesthetic work, the takes, the music, that I also found interesting, but it’s all a matter of personal perspective.
What bothers you and what do you like the most about the current film industry, American or not?
What I like the most is the possibility of making films. We all think that nowadays everything is controlled by streaming and it’s not like that. Even though indie cinema is seldom seen like the way it was in the seventies and sixties- because it’s not like everyone was watching Antonioni, or Fellini or Tarkovsky. That’s just a collective fantasy. There are a lot of youngsters with an initiative that can rent a camera, or make a post-production with their phone and it turns out to be something interesting and maybe after that they manage to finance a film. What I dislike the most is this situation where one has to beware of what people will say all the time. A bizarre example of this is when the trailer of Sonic, a movie for children, came out. They launched the trailer to see if people liked the character or not and they didn’t, so they delayed the premiere to re-draw a cartoon character. That’s so problematic- to be aware of what you say all the time. For example, the thing that happens with Paul Thomas Anderson’s Licorice Pizza, I haven’t seen it, but from what I’ve read the scandal is that there’s a relationship that involves a 20-something-year-old woman and a fifteen-year-old guy. As I´ve said, I haven’t seen it yet, I don’t even know if it contains sex scenes, if it’s a platonic relationship, I don’t know, the thing is there’s already a strong conversation going on around it and there’s an internalized rage on Twitter and social media. Even though I haven’t seen it, my point is that it is ridiculous being mad because of a depiction of reality, and I won’t judge that movie since I’m speaking from total ignorance. Why can’t there be a film about a relationship between a 13-year-old and a 20-year-old? That’s a terrible situation, yes it is, but why can’t it exist if it’s something that happens in real life, and yes, it’s illegal, but it’s a reality. Why can’t we talk about taboo topics? What’s going on are a lot of problems related to on-screen representation, representation of sexuality, of the LGBT community, of all types. In art, everything should be able to be represented with intelligence.
Stills of Pink Flamingos by John Waters
Yeah, I agree. I believe society has a very strange double moral. They don’t allow some topics to be taken to the screen, to be represented, nevertheless, they are situations that happen to them very often, in their daily life. When I was in middle school I had friends who were romantically involved with young adults but at the same time, their parents wouldn’t let them see films like Lolita or similar stories.
Exactly. There's an Oscar-nominated film that premiered this year by Paolo Sorrentino called The Hand of God that’s some sort of autobiography. In this film, there’s a part in which he shows that in his teenagehood he was involved with an older woman, and it hasn’t caused any sort of alarm. Even though this is illegal, to people it seems like it only becomes alarming when it’s a relationship between a young woman and an older man but not between a young boy and a woman. For a bizarre reason, they see it this way.
To you, who are the most remarkable women in film?
I love a woman named Julia Ducournau who just made a film, Titane (2021). She's spectacular, I think she is a very intelligent woman. I’m also very fond of Jane Campion who just directed the Power of the Dog (2021). She's great, very talented, with a lot of drive. Another director who I love is the french Céline Sciamma, who made a marvellous film called Portrait of a Lady on Fire (2019) and just released a super cute movie, Petite Maman (2021) about two little girls and one of them acts like the mother. Most of all I admire all the fierce women who are creating interesting things. I just saw Spencer (2021) and Kristen Stewart’s character has me fascinated. I think she’s an actress with little rage and is always doing the same things but when she’s playing a role that needs power she’s excellent. So few women are making it big but the ones that are, are beyond great. In México we have Alejandra Márquez, she is a great director. I love how brilliant Tatiana Hueso is even though there are some of her films that I don’t enjoy, and although I don’t like the plot I think “this is a woman who perfectly knows what she is doing, who studied the topic and is making it [the movie] with sensibility”
I’ve seen that you read a lot for what you share to instastories. What are your favourite book adaptations to the screen?
Because adapting them is very difficult, it’s difficult because there are things literature can do that films can’t, they are different media. There’s an interesting adaptation of a beautiful book by Faulkner, The Sound and the Fury, James Franco transformed it into film and narrated it from the internal and external parts of the characters, so all the film you can see the screen divided in two, and it’s interesting but it doesn’t work. As difficult as things are to adapt to me, the Godfather (1972) is a great adaptation because it’s written exactly like the novel, all Coppola does is follow it. I liked Dune even though it misses a lot of things from the novel. I also enjoy very loose and free adaptations, like Naked Lunch by Burroughs, that’s almost unadaptable but David Cronenberg made a movie about it mixing the story with parts of Burroughs’ life. The Shining is also great even though King hated it. Adaptations fail when they are too literal, the director has to do their thing to change that.
How do films relate to life? Is this relation important?
Yes, it is, in the end, audiovisual media become some sort of life school, a lot of people learn things through cinema. Our encounter with romantic love is most times first introduced by movies. The fantasies of having a wedding and a relationship sometimes come first because one wishes to have a boyfriend like Hugh Grant. It becomes a fundamental thing for the formation of our values. And not only films but also any other audiovisuals. We’ve been locked down for almost two years and we have been learning things through a screen. All the films that one sees throughout the year shape new perspectives and ideas.
Was there any film that saved your quarantine?
There weren’t a lot because everyone was afraid that their projects wouldn’t work out, so I mostly watched things from past years. I’m mad at quarantine for not allowing me to see Portrait of a Lady on Fire in cinemas. If there was a film that needed to be seen on the big screen from the past two years, it was that one.
You tend to have a chat with your followers on Tuesdays through stories about topics not related to movies. How did you start having this contact and how do you perceive their answers?
I find it fun. This approach is important, this is the main idea of the modern critic, I’m so bored by the kind of critic sitting on a pedestal. I’m very interested in having a conversation because when I write these things or I agree or not with something people get hooked and they start asking why. One of the pretty things about Instagram is that there’s no savage hate all over, and when there is I try not to answer rudely and when the conversation takes another direction it can be interesting. Overall it is fun, there are super bizarre funny things people say, very ordinary situations. During the pandemic, I could read other kinds of comments like "I´m sad" or "I don’t have a job," and now I don’t notice that frequently.
"Audiovisual media become some sort of life school, a lot of people learn things through cinema. Our encounter with romantic love is most times first introduced by movies. The fantasies of having a wedding and a relationship sometimes come first because one wishes to have a boyfriend like Hugh Grant. It becomes a fundamental thing for the formation of our values. And not only films but also any other audiovisuals. We’ve been locked down for almost two years and we have been learning things through a screen. All the films that one sees throughout the year shape new perspectives and ideas."
Can you talk about the cine club?
It is a separate account I run where we gather to discuss a film once a week. During the week I post things related to the movie, its story, and some facts. It's a very nice community.
Which director has caught your attention most recently?
Julia Ducornau. She operates at the same frequency as me. She discusses the body and its abilities a lot in terms of emotions and pain, those things fascinate me. I give a body horror course and I enjoy it, she is the director who has made the most amazing thing this year so far. I would love to have a word with Leos Carax as well (Annette, 2021), I would definitely go out for dinner with them.
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