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Dia de los Muertos: A Cinematic Journey

By November 2, 2023No Comments

Hello avid readers and storytelling enthusiasts. I’ve been fascinated by Dia de los Muertos for as long as I can remember. This is a celebration that has not only found its place in the hearts of those who observe it but has also made its indelible mark in the realm of cinema and art, and has become a source of inspiration for artists and filmmakers worldwide. The essence of this tradition is continuously evolving, adapting, and finding new avenues for artistic expression; It’s a testament to the enduring power of cultural celebrations and the endless possibilities they offer to storytellers and creators. So I wanted to finally pay my personal tribute and homage to it by creating a series that has a distinct cinematic aesthetic, all while adding a personal touch and twist along the way.

Join me as we explore the rich history, cinematic representations, and my personal endeavor to breathe life into this enchanting tradition through a unique live-action film look.

A GLIMPSE INTO THE HISTORY AND ESSENCE OF DIA DE LOS MUERTOS

Dia de los Muertos, or the Day of the Dead, is a Mexican holiday with deep-rooted traditions that honor and remember deceased loved ones. Celebrated from October 31st to November 2nd, it is a time for families to come together, build altars (ofrendas), and pay respects to their ancestors. This tradition beautifully blends indigenous beliefs with Catholicism, creating a unique and colorful celebration.


CINEMATIC EXPLORATIONS

The enchanting tapestry of Dia de los Muertos has found its way into the world of cinema. Pixar’s “Coco” is a fantastic example of how this celebration can be brought to life on the silver screen. Other noteworthy mentions include “The Book of Life” and even “The Corpse Bride,” which drew inspiration from it for some of its sets and characters in the Underworld sequences, each offering their own artistic interpretations of the holiday’s magical and mystic elements.


FOLKLORE AND SOUTH AMERICAN AESTHETICS: A FASCINATING WORLD BUILDING EXPERIMENT

One of the most fascinating aspects of Dia de los Muertos is the blend of folklore elements and a strong, recognizable South American aesthetic. The intricate sugar skulls, vibrant marigold flowers, and the iconic Catrina skeleton figure all contribute to a world-building experience that is both visually stunning and deeply rooted in tradition.


MY APPROACH

Inspired by the captivating allure of Dia de los Muertos, I wanted to create a live-action film adaptation that pays homage to its tradition and history while bringing a unique vision to life. I was determined to capture the essence of this celebration and showcase it in a new and refreshing way, while sprinkling some classic early 90s “Amblin-esque” inspiration over it.


THE CREATIVE TOOLS

To realize this series I leaned heavily into Midjourney 5.2, which was the ideal choice due to its ability to handle realistic lighting and particles, which are crucial for creating the immersive atmosphere of Dia de los Muertos. I used Houdini to craft additional layers of particle effects for some of the images, Photoshop Beta to composite matte painting elements in the background along with generative fill for minor adjustments. Lastly, DaVinci Resolve was employed to provide the final cinematic color grading and grain, and an extra oomph in brightness and contrast by applying a custom LUT.

Hope you like it.

Stay inspired and stay connected.
Davide