Private Project


Nayeli, a female hunter, is trying to live through a post-apocalyptic winter famine. When her abusive ex-husband shows up at her trailer door, she will have to confront her sense of helplessness and unworthiness to finally overcome the damage she carries. She will go on a surreal exploration of her unconscious to find healing, strength, and connection to her community. She will realize she’s already a survivor.

  • Marlene Castaños Ortega
    Teresa's Choice
  • Josefina Llanos López
    The Passion of the Pastor, Detective Ultra, Hunger
  • Josefina Llanos López
    Detective Ultra, Hunger
  • Lila Ferradans
    Director of Photography
    Beyond the Podium, Gilded, A Heist of the Heart, Jump, Flipside
  • Merve Yoruk
    Production Designer
  • Dani Sampaio
    Costume Designer
  • José Aarón García López
    Storyboard Artist
  • Zi Jian Li
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  • Country of Filming:
  • Language:
    English, Spanish
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Director Biography - Marlene Castaños Ortega

Marlene is a filmmaker interested in telling stories that expand our vision of reality. She focuses on female driven stories and over forty protagonists.
She gravitates towards spiritual or psychological topics and her storytelling is influenced by her Mexican roots.
She has directed several corporate shows and videos. “Teresa's Choice” is her film directorial debut and is currently working on a Documentary Feature about women over eighty preparing to die.
She founded Divine Spark Films, a boutique production company based in Canada specializing in conscious films.
As an actress, she has experience in theater, TV, and film in Mexico as well as Canada.
She has worked as a Producer, Production Manager, and Production Coordinator in several short and long-format films, and TV shows in companies like Silverlight Entertainment, Emedia Networks International, Noema Productions, and Lanikai Films among others.

Film Directorial Debut:

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Director Statement

Showcasing over forty female protagonists is personal for me. I think these characters have been for the longest time ignored or relegated to supporting roles. There is a clear gap to be filled in Canadian content now.

I have a background in psychotherapy and needless to say the many times clients have come to me with themes of abuse; sexual abuse, psychological abuse, subtle abuse. Many women, also some men. Speaking about abuse and the inner journey one has to be willing to go through in order to heal is exciting for me. I believe all resources for healing are inside of us if we are willing to do the work.

This is why I decided to direct Survivors. I believe storytelling is a powerful tool to shape the human psyche. One paramount door to our unconscious is the language of symbols and visual storytelling is that for me. I believe this story can bring symbolic resources for resolution to people that have experienced abuse. I love the idea of the main character finding answers inside herself!

Another important theme in this movie is community. I am a recent immigrant to Canada, I would not have been able to overcome the challenges I have gone through without my community here, Nayeli finds strength and resources in her community of women. They talk to her in her language where she can feel at home, they help her and make her feel that she belongs. I relate to the need of sisterhood that survives the passage of time to overcome any difficulties.

And finally I believe that Nayeli is the survivor inside of us. She has survived her own journey and gone deep down to her own emotional hell to heal and live again. Facing a new down in her life.

Visually I am creating two different worlds: the inner and outer world with their distinctive color palettes and esthetics in the production design.

I want to combine the use of wide and long lenses to convey both the smallness of the character in the vast Canadian wilderness as well as the constriction of her solitary life inside the van.

The outside is in the range of blues. The inside in the oranges. She has somehow managed to create a cozy “hogar” (home) inside her van. The inner world is both warm and cold in a dramatic contrast.

We open the movie with Nayeli in the great outdoors checking her empty hunting traps. We understand the apparent smallness of this woman in the immensity of the inclement nature.

We then become an intimate inhabitant of her little trailer. The refuge that keeps her safe.

I want the scenes inside the trailer to be very intimate, quotidian and naturalistic. Daily survival tasks. Warmer and minimal lights as the day gets shorter.

We connected to her female friend for the first time. I want this first contact to be purely sound. Calid voices speaking Spanish trying to bring comfort through the radio. We don’t see the characters, we only hear. The sense of isolation grows even bigger.

Nayeli can’t ask for help, she feels she is not worthy of it.

To the audience's surprise, Mauricio, Nayeli’s ex-husband, appears offering food in exchange for shelter. Their conversation through the walls of the trailer give us the backstory of abuse and belittlement as we see juxtaposed scenes of the past and present. The couple’s dynamic simply repeats itself, this time just with higher stakes.

The storm gets worse as well as Mauricio’s attempts to convince, manipulate and even force Nayeli to let him in.

The warmer indoor light dimes as Nayeli’s exhaustion and life force dimes too. He outside will die, but perhaps she will too, she has nothing inside to fight for. She feels trapped. Her only chance to survive is to give up and open the door to him.

The line between realities blur as Nayelli starts hallucinating sliping completely into her inner world. We are now in a theater stage. There is a minimalistic staged forest and some references to their actual life; the trees, the window of the van, the empty pots.

A theater is in my opinion one of the most magical spaces that exist. Stories are created and performed there. It made so much sense to me that it is in a theater where Nayeli’s alternative reality takes place.

The acting tone becomes more dramatic, cathartic and performative, yet real and true as the characters “dance” their conflict, have a soliloquy, scream and cry. They are for the first time totally true to each other. In this alternative performative reality, they can finally see each other and speak their truth, at least she does.

Vibrant dramatic lights, movement, hand held camera, choreography and an indoor snow storm. The storm gets stronger She is taken by the swirling winds as she finally expresses everything she needs to find completion. The storm suddenly stops. She is laying on the floor. Mauricio is not there anymore.

We are back inside the van. Nayeli is lying on the floor. Everything is quiet. She is alive.

The catharsis has given her lifeforce back. She gathers the strength to climb up the top of the van and starts a lightsaber asking for help.

From the top of the van she sees a dead Mauricio laying on the snow.

She sees a small light in the distance held by an almost imperceptible human figure walking towards her. The soft light of the dawn breaks.

I want to work with natural light in the exterior. And minimal practical lights in the interior of the van. The theater will be full of contrasting lights.

With exterior wide shots I want to show the inclement weather and how it puts a strain on Nayeli's already challenging life conditions.

I will explore with hand held and unconventional angles and camera moves for the most dramatic scenes.

I envision the sound design as a composition between minimal musical notes and nature sounds creating the melody for the scenes.

Static camera. Three Shot. High angle. Carmen and Nayeli stare at Mauricio’s dead body. They look at each other.

Camera moves to put the van in perspective to nature as in the opening scene.

A warm smoke comes out of the stove.

Carmen serves a warm plate of soup to Nayeli. She receives it, stares at it and gives a first slurp.