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La Jolla filmmaker crosses borders

my daughter, my daughter!

a god made you mad,

a god made you pure.

a god sent you to death

This quote from Euripides, shown at the beginning of La Jolla filmmaker Mauricio Chernovetzky’s newest film, “Cassandra,” sets a tone that resonates throughout the production.

The film will make its public debut at the upcoming Latino Film Festival.

It is inspired by Euripides’ Greek tragedy, “The Trojan Women,” but focuses on very contemporary topics: the border and war.

“He deliberately avoided making it political,” said Greg Durbin a professor and graduate advisor in the School of Theatre, Television and Film at San Diego State University (SDSU). “He decided to make it metaphorical.”

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Chernovetzky met Durbin while enrolled in the graduate program at SDSU. The two connected over artistic film interests and Durbin was intrigued by Chernovetzky’s vast knowledge of foreign film.

“He was the ideal student to have here in the SDSU graduate program,” Durbin said.

Chernovetzky also met Mark Devondorf – the two men have collaborated on a couple films since, including “Cassandra” – while involved with the SDSU graduate program.

“He’s (Devondorf) one of the best things that happened to me at SDSU,” Chernovetzky said.

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The two men work well together, while Devondorf understands how to edit quickly, Chernovetzky has an eye for detail.

“He (Chernovetzky) is very smart and very well read.” Devondorf said of his friend and colleague. “He spends a lot of time reading about philosophy and film. He likes to keep himself stimulated.”

Chernovetzky said he tries to make mysterious and interesting films. He finds inspiration in many foreign films, literature and every day life. His observations come from living all over the world.

“I think he’s always felt like somewhat of an outsider.” Greg Durbin said. “He grew up in Mexico, but he’s Eastern European Jewish.”

Chernovetzky’s grandparents immigrated to Mexico from Central and Eastern Europe. Chernovetzky, born in Mexico City in 1974, was 8-years-old when his family moved to La Jolla.

“Borders have a strange effect on me,” Chernovetzky said.

He studied at Reed College in Portland, Ore., where he focused on the history of religion, writing his thesis on “The Zohar,” the central work of Jewish mysticism.

Chernovetzky began to pursue his passion for filmmaking in San Francisco, where he worked on his first film, a 16mm black-and-white short, “In Darkness.”

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In 2001, he attended the National Polish Film School in Lodz, Poland, where he was co-director, co-writer and producer of a 35mm black-and-white short, “Zofia/Roza.” During his two years in Poland, he also developed an interest in making documentaries.

In 2003, Chernovetzky returned to La Jolla, where he finished post-production on a 50-minute documentary that he produced, wrote and directed in Poland.

“I’m just getting used to being back in La Jolla,” Chernovetzky said. " I thought I would never come back, but my family is here and it’s very beautiful.”

Since his return, he attended SDSU and received his Master of Arts in Film, Television and New Media. His thesis was “Cassandra,” a 27-minute film shot on Super35mm, This is the film that will be shown with other local filmmakers at 6:30 p.m., Wednesday, March 12, at the UltraStar Mission Valley Cinemas at Hazard Center, 7510 Hazard Center Drive, San Diego, CA 92108.

“Cassandra” fit into a vision that I had of a film I wanted to make of toxic reality that you can feel in some of the border towns,” Chernovetzky said. “Instead of making an overt political statement, it’s a human tragedy.”

“Cassandra” used many local people and was filmed near and around Tecate.

Of the Latino Film Festival, Chernovetzky said “It’s great to participate in something that’s part of my culture.”

This will also be the first time that all of the people working on the project will have a chance to see the completed film on the big screen.

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“Being a Mexican-American, part of me is connected to both sides of the border,” Chernovetzky said.

Though he spoke rarely about himself, Chernovetzky seemed to enjoy speaking about film, literature, travels and family.

Chernovetzky is currently collaborating with Devendorf on a feature script for a psychological vampire thriller, “Styria,” which they plan to co-direct.

Chernovetzky hopes to work on sustaining himself with the films that he makes.

“We’re both pulling each other to a more popular acceptance,” Devondorf said.

The Latino Film Festival will be held at Hazard Center from March 6 to March 16. For information and show times, go to www.sdlatinofilm.com or call the box office at (619) 574-8684 from 12:30 to 10 p.m.