Mexican actor and director Gael Garcia Bernal said after his second feature film, "Chicuarotes," premiered earlier this week at the Cannes Film Festival that he is not motivated by applause in making movies but rather by a desire to create something transcendent.
The 40-year-old, who is also a movie producer, said in an interview with EFE that his goal is to "leave something written, something expressed."
In his directorial debut, "Deficit" (2007), Garcia Bernal also acted in the lead role, but he said that experience was very challenging and one he sought to avoid on this occasion.
"I realized it was very complex, and I think everyone else realized that too. The truth is I really enjoy acting. I'm happy being an actor, but I like to separate the two things," he said.
Garcia Bernal came to Cannes for the first time in 2000 as a cast member of Alejandro Gonzalez Iñarritu's debut feature film, "Amores Perros," which won the Nespresso Grand Prize during International Critics' Week, a parallel, non-competitive section of the Cannes festival.
"Deficit" also was screened as part of International Critics' Week, while Garcia Bernal has been an actor in three films that were in competition at Cannes - "The Motorcyle Diaries" (2004), "Babel" (2006) and "Blindness" (2008) - and another, "La mala educacion" (Bad Education) that was not in the running for the Palme d'Or.
"Chicuarotes," which is being screened out of competition, tells the story of two teenagers whose efforts to escape a life of poverty and violence lead them spiraling into Mexico's criminal underworld.
"This is a subject we're all affected by and lose sleep over, and that's why we make films like this. It denounces (these realities) from a fictional perspective," said Garcia Bernal, who praised the acting of Benny Emmanuel and Gabriel Carbajal in the lead roles.
Well-received at Cannes, the film explores essential questions about violence and hopelessness.
"An environment devoid of love can create the conditions in which someone grows up without a future, and that lack of a future forces you to make decisions in keeping with that story. One of these is solving things quickly, getting money. How do you do that? Through violence," he said.
Garcia Bernal uses his camera to expose these conditions of life, as a "mirror and a detonator of things that are already happening."
The harsh realities of Mexico, which has been plagued by violent drug-related crime that has claimed tens of thousands of lives over the past 13 years, serve as backdrop to Garcia Bernal's film.
"How can we reconcile day-to-day life with so many dead bodies, with so much impunity? How can we go about living our lives, breathing, laughing, dancing, with all of this happening?" the actor asks rhetorically, adding that violence has become so engrained in Mexico's social fabric that people are largely immune to it.
There is no easy answer to the violence, the actor acknowledges, although he is seeking to use his fame as a platform to denounce this scourge.
Through cinema "we're representing our movement, but in reality our essence, our eternal being, is there in that work that I hope will endure for many years and even serve as a point of reference to say, look how humanity was at that time," the director said.
He expressed confidence that his work will form part of that legacy, but he is less certain whether he will combine his roles as actor and director in his future projects.
"It's very difficult to act and direct at the same time. I won't say I won't do it again, but for this (latest) film it was definitely clear to me that I wouldn't," he said.