We were lucky to briefly catch up with the writer, Mark Webber (writer), Rosario Dawson and Francisco Burgos to talk about Mark’s beautiful and touching film, Explicit Ills.
AUSTIN DAZE: How are you guys enjoying the film festival so far? How long have you been here?
ROSARIO DAWSON: Just a couple of hours. I had a film that was accepted to screen here last year and it didn’t work out and I was really bummed out because I’ve just heard such wonderful things about this festival for years. I’ve worked in Austin a couple of times and I think it’s a great city. It’s a place, when you think of, that you just know automatically people here love art and they love music and they love movies. Culturally, it’s a place where you want to present something like this. If it does well here it says something really powerful. I think it speaks to a community of people that I feel should see this film and if it does well here it says that in a strong way. More so than I think some other festivals—it’s renowned in that way. So I’m really excited to be here with the project.
AD: Thoughts on SXSW festival?
MARK WEBBER: I’ve been dying to come to this festival for a really long time. Amongst our peers and festival circuit, even being at some of the other ones they talk about this one. So I’m honored to be here. You feel the vibe and it just feels really right for me.
AD: Where did this story come from?
MW: It’s a very personal story for me. I grew up in North Philadelphia next to the badlands—where this film was shot and the two characters live in. It’s a story about love and drugs and poverty and friendship and relationships and the social movement in this country. I wanted to tell this story in a very fragmented way. It builds up and connects in the end in a way that I have experienced so much of life through marching and activism.
RD: I worked with Mark on a film that was Ethan Hawke’s directorial debut called, Chelsea Walls. At that point we were both very young and talked a lot. We were just in this little room in the Chelsea hotel. And that place itself inspired a lot of conversation because it is such an insane space and it is all about these artists who have come from around the world to try and make it there with all the rest. And he (Mark) had spent a lot of years involved in activism because of his mom and they had really harsh times of extreme poverty where they lived out of his car with his mom. So we talked about that then and I talked about how I grew up in a squat on the Lower East Side and there was a period there when we didn’t have water, heat or electricity and my family made do. So we had this really interesting background that made activism and social awareness a very natural thing for us. We really bonded over that. And then we kept in touch and then suddenly I get these calls from Mark saying, “Oh my goodness I’ve got this script that I’ve written and I want you to read it and be a part of it and tell me what you think.” And I jumped on a plane with it. And all of a sudden I’m reading this script on the plane and I’m balling. I’m just crying my eyes out and was so touched by it. I’m reading about this man’s childhood and his home and going, “This is the first movie that you wrote and the way that you want to tell this story is just incredible.” There are these incredible people that are flawed. And they are not always done so honestly, authentically and richly. I was just moved and sent him a text immediately because I wanted to tell him exactly how I felt right after reading the end. Then we talked and I was so honored that he asked me to be a part of it and so touched that this was the story he had to tell. This is authentic coming from him. This isn’t I’m going to tell this story about poor people and maybe it will give me some kind of cred. It is really heartbreaking but it also is really beautiful. He is amazing.
AD: How about your experience with this film? How did you get the part?
FRANCISCO BURGOS: I got the part by just going to this big place and meeting Mark Weber and Mike Lemon. I was trying my best to read the lines but then I made this little mistake and I said, “I made a mistake” to Mark Weber but then he said, “It’s Ok, if you go to the movie that’s how you get the lines.” So then I tried my best to say it perfectly. I came out but then he said sit down and then he called my mother. That’s when he said, “I’m an angel just like I am in the movie.” So that’s when I figured out that maybe I might be called so I went all the way to the Bronx. My mom went to the shop that she works in, this ice cream shop then we went to this store just to eat and then she went to the bathroom and then out of nowhere she heard the phone ring and she picked it up while I was eating French fries and said that I got a callback for the movie.