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Para Todo Mal...Para Todo Bien: A Mezcal Trilogy

Para Todo Mal...Para Todo Bien: A Mezcal Trilogy is a triptych of short films that are bilingual (Spanish and English dialogue) and center around mishaps that occur as a result of language barriers and cultural misunderstandings. In the three films, a bottle of mezcal (liquor from Mexico) is used as a prop and thematic symbol of the cultural confusions that occur when characters try to connect with one another.

We shot the film once and gave the footage and intended themes to 3 different editors to interpret into their own voices and styles.
The result is 3 pieces which play together as one film.

The trilogy can be screened as one complete piece or each part can be screened individually as stand-alone pieces. We have deliverables for the entire trilogy, or for each part separately if only one part stands out for your festival.

Parte I (15 minutes), dramedy set in Havana, Cuba:  a romantic tryst between Tomás, a Cuban tattoo artist; and Abigail, an American visiting Cuba as an illegal tourist.  Abigail believes that Tomás does not speak or understand English and all communication is in Spanish.  However, Abigail’s Spanish is not very good, and thus, a lot of confusion occurs over what she is trying to say versus what she is actually saying.  To further the cultural misunderstandings between the characters, Abigail brings Tomás a bottle of mezcal (liquor from Mexico).  By the end of the film, the bottle of mezcal serves to get Tomas and Abigail out of a difficult situation.

Parte II (3 min. 7 sec.), an experimental exploration depicting the protagonist's inner thoughts during an intimate moment and her relationship with a bottle of mezcal.

Parte III (9 min. 33 sec.), a remix of Parte I and II adding a personal twist to the themes of mobility of cultures, language barriers, and cultural confusion. Director Stephanie Gardner reverts to her real life experience traveling through Cuba and merges the footage shot for the narrative film with her own ideas about travel, tourism, Cuba, and mezcal.

  • Stephanie Gardner
    If I Had A Piano (I'd Play You The Blues), And If I Stay
  • Stephanie Gardner
    If I Had A Piano (I'd Play You The Blues), And If I Stay
  • Stephanie Gardner Films, Rick Bachl
  • Henry Caicedo
    Key Cast
    Romeo and Juliet in Harlem
  • Lizzy Ireton
    Key Cast
  • Shivani Khattar
    Director of Photography
  • Project Type:
  • Genres:
    Romance, Drama
  • Runtime:
    28 minutes 44 seconds
  • Completion Date:
    January 22, 2021
  • Production Budget:
    30,000 USD
  • Country of Origin:
    United States
  • Country of Filming:
    Cuba, United States
  • Language:
    English, Spanish
  • Shooting Format:
    Red Dragon 4K
  • Aspect Ratio:
  • Film Color:
  • First-time Filmmaker:
  • Student Project:
Director Biography - Stephanie Gardner

Originally from Emmaus, PA, Stephanie is a writer and director for film and theatre based in Taos, NM.  She received a Master of Fine Arts in Dramatic Writing from New York University’s Tisch School of the Arts, where she studied in Singapore.  Stephanie has participated in masterclasses and screenwriting workshops where she wrote and developed feature screenplays under the tutelage of Oliver Stone (Platoon), Todd Solondz (Happiness), Richard Wesley (Uptown Saturday Night), and Sabrina Dhawan (Monsoon Wedding).  

Currently, Stephanie is the director and host of the "33 and Me" film project, where she is traveling to over 33 countries around the world to meet and interact with 33-year-old filmmakers.

As a freelance filmmaker and playwright, past clients include Elie Wiesel, Yale University, Urban Stages, and Miller Symphony Hall. 

Her film, "If I Had A Piano (I’d Play You The Blues)" has won Best of Show at the Greater Lehigh Valley Filmmakers Festival; an Award of Merit: Special Mention through the Accolade Global Film Competition; Best Screenwriting from the Columbia Gorge International Film Festival; and the Jury Prize for Excellence in Narrative Filmmaking, and the “Chupacabra” Audience Award For Narrative Filmmaking from the Southern Colorado Film Festival.

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Director Statement

Parte I of The Mezcal Trilogy was created to explore themes of mishaps that occur as a result of language barriers and cultural misunderstandings. The use of language in this film is very important to me, and I wanted to use the languages spoken (at times Spanish, at times English) as an integral part of the plot. The use of language moves the story forward, as it begins with Abigail’s assuming (and Tómas allowing her to) that Tómas does not speak or understand any English. While Abigail can get by in Spanish, her Spanish is not very good, and therefore it creates some miscommunication between the two that will influence their action throughout the entire film.

Instead of having two separate versions of the film, the same film is subtitled for both Spanish and English audiences, so that together, the audience will experience the miscommunications as the characters in the film experience it. This tactic emphasizes the themes of the film: that language is important, words are important, but communication can also transcend language barriers when done with love and care and respect for one another.

Parte I of The Mezcal Trilogy is a memory play set in a surreal world. We wanted to create a feeling that you weren’t entirely rooted in reality. In a sense, you’re only seeing Abigail’s memory of the events that happened (or sometimes her fantasy of what happened). We wanted it to feel like the characters are sometimes trapped in a René Magritte painting, and sometimes trapped in a Tennessee Williams play.

Visiting Cuba often feels like you’re in a time warp to the 1950s, and so there’s an element of 1950s American cinema here. We feel the black and white emphasizes this idea of being trapped in a given time and place while adding to the “memory play” element.

And for me as the writer/director, this film is a further exploration of a memory that continues to haunt me. Many years ago I went to Cuba illegally and in secret and experienced a wide range of emotions and observations while there. The trip opened my eyes to a world that is at once, far removed from my own, and yet, similar in many ways. I met a young man named Leo, who quit his government sponsored T-shirt factory job and taught himself how to make tattoos. He wasn’t a particularly good tattoo artist, but I was drawn by the fact that he found a way to survive and support his family, which allowed himself a tiny bit of freedom which wasn’t otherwise allotted to him. Like many Cubans, all Leo dreamed of was to leave Cuba, but even if he could find a way out (which he presumed impossible), he would have his family to think about, too. Meeting Leo and hearing his story, and others like it, had such a profound impact on me, I wanted to find a way to communicate some of the many layers of, not only his story, but how it both conflicts and coincides with the many tourists that come to Cuba and see a country very different than what Leo sees as his homeland.