Interview with Kuno Becker, writer/director/star of “Panic 5 Bravo”
December 2, 2014
Presbyterian Outlook: So, how was it, being inside that ambulance all that time? I think I had claustrophobia right along with you.
Kuno Becker: (laughs) No, at the time it felt OK, though looking back on it now, I get a little claustrophobic! You know, it all started with this deep sadness that I feel for my country for the incredible level of violence we’re living. And what we’re going through fighting this drug-consuming crazy mafia and how the violence is changing all of us. So I started shooting this documentary, trying to find some hope, trying to find some heroes, in these same streets in Mexico City where the drug gangs work. One day I was very close to a guy who was shot, and the paramedics’ code for that is “5 Bravo.” The guy actually made it, thank God, but looking at him, showing fear, of course, but some sadness, and something peaceful … it really moved me. And that moment inspired me to write the script. And I wanted to include all this crazy stuff going on between the U.S. and Mexico, including what happens at the border.
Presbyterian Outlook: At one point in the dialogue, you had the female paramedic saying cynically that the U.S. has motivation for Mexico to continue to go down, down, down, so then they’ll ask us to come save them, and when we do, we take all their oil or something.
Kuno Becker: (laughs) Yeah, the conspiracy theory from the movie. The point about that is that it’s hard for me to believe that the U.S. government is involved in all this conflict so far away: Syria, Iraq, Afghanistan, whatever, all these bases all over the world. But why not be involved, instead, in this incredibly violent war that we’re living in Mexico? And the tons of drugs that go through every day…
Presbyterian Outlook: … How are we not complicit in that somehow?
Kuno Becker: Yeah! We’re all part of it. We’re all guilty in a way. I’m not trying to blame anybody, but I’m trying to point out the complexity of the problem. This is a real statistic: 70 percent of the weapons recovered from the drug gangs in Mexico are bought here in the U.S., legally. So that tells you it could be stopped. It wouldn’t be easy. But it can be done.
Presbyterian Outlook: Is part of the solution to just make all drugs legal and then tax them?
Kuno Becker: I don’t know, man. No matter what you make legal, the mafia will still find a way to do something else illegal, terrorism, kidnapping, human trafficking … . My real view of the solution is that as human beings, all society has to change inside. We have to stop wanting so much. We have to try to stop filling this void we have with drugs. We have to be a little more spiritual – not religious – whatever everybody believes. But this void that a human being has by nature, this emptiness, we have to stop trying to fill that with alcohol, drugs, money – we have to change ourselves. It’s not just the fault of the people who do the wrong thing; it’s that so many fail to do the right thing.
Presbyterian Outlook: The rape scene was difficult, even if it was off-camera and we couldn’t see it. We could still hear it.
Kuno Becker: Yeah, we actually filmed it at first, but decided it was too much. I wasn’t going for porn here, but I wanted to make an impact, so I was appealing to the dark mind of the audience. I gave them the guide of the sound, but you have to picture it, you have to imagine it. You see it in your own mind.
Presbyterian Outlook: I know it was low-budget ($500k) and only two and a half weeks of shooting. But are there things you’d change if you could?
Kuno Becker: Yes, the first scene, when I’m with my wife. The camera is too still, the lighting is too [similar]. I also needed to have more faith in my own intuition about things, especially at the beginning, rather than listening to other people’s visions. You have to go with your own instincts. But at the end of the day, the small technical stuff is not as important as the story, and the story is how I wanted it to be. The ending is a little crazy, you know, against the fourth wall, but I wanted to do something different. I am happy with the result. Hopefully, I’ll get the chance to do something bigger with more resources.
Presbyterian Outlook: I hope you do.
Kuno Becker: Thanks! And thanks for your time.
RONALD P. SALFEN is the parish associate at Woodhaven Presbyterian Church in Irving, Texas.