In Focus: Luke Lorentzen on Santa Cruz del Islote

Golden Gate Award, Bay Area Short

The Colombian island Santa Cruz del Islote is only three acres large, but it teems with life, as Luke Lorentzen's vivid short film shows.

Santa Cruz del Islote is a Cinema by the Bay film


How did you first discover your subject(s), and what made you decide to make a film about them?

I met a really good friend, Santiago Saavedra Pineda, in a tennis class about a year ago. Santiago found out I was interested in film and then came to me proposing this little island, Santa Cruz del Islote, as an interesting subject for a documentary. I was so fascinated. It seemed like such a unique way of life, one that I wanted to go explore, further understand, and learn from.

Santiago is from Colombia, and he had been to Islote before with other projects. The two of us started to organize the trip together and traveled down to Cartagena in June of last year (2013). He dropped me off, and I spent about two months living with my subjects, Juan Pablo and Juancho.

As I started shooting, my initial goal with the film was to recreate the experience of living on this island, not only the physical, but also the emotional essence of their way of life. Part of that ended being a film that was much more visual than verbal. I wanted to really use images rather than interviews to understand the essence of this place and its people. I also had no interest in defining this or that, which words sometimes do too easily. Some people see the lack of facts or clarification as a fault in the film, but I didn’t feel it was my place as an American to go into the community with the goal of directly explaining or defining their lifestyle.

I am hoping to go back this summer to reconnect with my subjects and the others on the island. Because they are quite isolated, it has been tough to stay in contact, and I am dying to see how things are going with all them. I was just blown away by their kindness and have the entire community to thank for making the film possible. Islote is truly a remarkable, family-like community like nothing else I have ever experienced.


What do you see as the greatest challenges for filmmakers today?

I think it’s an interesting question in that I see film as becoming a more and more accessible medium. We have gotten to the point where so many people have the resources to make a film and that was definitely not the case several years ago. Technology has also developed in a way where documentary filmmakers can even go at it alone, which I think is changing the way films are made in a really great way. What will hopefully happen is the quality of professional work will get better as the medium becomes more and more democratized.

I think funding will always be a problem, but I also believe films can be made for less than they ever have been in the past. If anything, I hope for film to become more like writing, an art form that is not a matter of resources and money per say, but rather a filmmaker’s effort, ability, etc.


What new opportunities are making the biggest difference to your filmmaking process?

I touched on some of this in the previous question, but I think technological advancements are having such a profound impact on the processes of documentary filmmaking. I think what initially drew me to doc film rather than narrative film was partially the idea that I could go at it alone. I didn’t need a crew, and I didn’t need actors. I just needed an idea and my camera.

I am just beginning to get a little bit of exposure to the whole festival world, which has thus far been an incredible opportunity for me to keep meeting filmmakers and others involved with film. Being here in the Bay Area has also been fantastic. I have begun working with and meeting so many fascinating people who have had a profound impact on my work.

I am also still an undergraduate and am not studying film production, which I think has been the single most beneficial decision I have made. It has been really exciting to take classes across all sorts of disciplines while simultaneously making films. For example, I have recently been taking a lot of History courses, which have really been changing my perceptions of how stories are told. There are also so many resources and opportunities here at Stanford that I would be nowhere without. I am beyond incredibly fortunate to be where I am, and only hope I can keep making films and keep progressing.


Describe what impact San Francisco Film Society or Bay Area filmmaking community support has had on your film.

I have just recently started to get to know a few filmmakers around the Bay Area, but am only increasingly excited to become a member of the film community here. I am constantly impressed with the people and work from this area and wouldn’t want to be anywhere else.