Director Julio Quintana knew he had a true story on his hands with “Blue Miracle,” but he took pains to make sure it wasn’t too true for comfort.
“If I had written this as a fictional story everyone would roll their eyes,” Quintana says of the debt-ridden orphanage rescued by a fisherman (Dennis Quaid) and some never-say-die Mexican lads. Even with a fact-based story from which to draw, the director still excised a few details that, while accurate, could make even true believers wonder about Hollywood excess.
The real head of the Casa Hogar orphanage, played by “Mayans M.C.” star Jimmy Gonzales, actually dreamed of his heroic moment just like it played out in both real life and on screen. That nugget got left behind, says Quintana, who co-wrote the film with veteran scribe Chris Dowling (“Run the Race,” “The Man From Nowhere”).
“True life seems to have some crazier things in it than fiction,” says Quintana, a filmmaker who studied under legendary director Terrence Malick earlier in his career.
The true story behind “Blue Miracle” defied every odd it could find. The orphanage couldn’t afford entry into Bisbee’s Black & Blue fishing tournament if not for an anonymous donor who ponied up for contestants who used local boats. The team’s improbable win made it the first time a Mexican squad came up victorious in the long-running tournament.
And, of course, the orphanage in question couldn’t survive much longer due to its staggering debt, a crisis made worse by a massive storm.
“Blue Miracle” may be a sports story on the surface, but the fishing perspective let Quintana steer clear of the genre’s cliches – like the inescapable training montage – while tackling meatier themes.
“It gave us the opportunity to explore the flip side of hopelessness … hope and optimism,” he says. Quintana’s personal back story offered plenty of both.
The director’s family fled Cuba during the Castro revolution, a part of his legacy he cannot forget.
“My family was very much influenced by their experience in Cuba and the system they ran away from there,” Quintana says of the Communist government. In fact, his grandfather vowed never to return to his homeland while Fidel Castro remained alive.
Sadly, his grandfather passed the same year the Cuban dictator did, so “he never got the chance” to go back home, the director says.
Still, those family stories flavored his upbringing, and they’re never too far from his thoughts.
“Cuba and that history have been a formative influence in my life,” he says.
“Blue Miracle’s” title alone suggests it falls squarely in the faith-based movie genre, but looks can be deceiving. Both “Blue Miracle” and Quintana’s directorial debut, 2016’s “The Vessel,” with Martin Sheen, deal directly with faith, but each avoids some genre tropes.
The latter film follows a village shattered by a tidal wave which struck the town, killing 46 school-aged children in its wake. Quintana would rather tell a story than send a message. Films focusing on the latter, he says, lack the nuance great narratives demand.
“The filmmaker goes into it with a certain set of ideas that they want to come across,” he says. “It’s a trap.”
As a storyteller he’s not interested in telling people what to think. He’d rather explore challenging issues from multiple sides, allowing audiences to “take whatever they want from it.”
He got some help on the “Blue Miracle” set from its youthful cast, including Anthony Gonzalez, Nathan Arenas and Miguel Angel Garcia.
“They inject an energy, an enthusiasm and innocence into every scene they’re in,” the director says of the young actors, who were quick studies in memorizing their lines. “They’re joking around between takes … it’s easy to take your job so seriously. It’s so hard to get these movies made and have fun [at the same time].”
Quintana’s “The Vessel” graced a fair share of movie theaters during its 2016 release, while “Blue Miracle” went straight to Netflix like many movies do these days.
The film boasts eye-popping colors and wonderful vistas, but Quintana takes a pragmatic approach to bypassing theaters. More people will see “Blue Miracle” than “The Vessel,” he says.
“People who don’t have time to get to the theater now can watch it and talk about it with their family,” he says.
“Blue Miracle” co-writer Dowling says handing a script off to a collaborator can be “terrifying,” but his partnership with Quintana blazed a different path.
“Julio knew exactly what he wanted and how to pull it off … the look, characters even the color palette,” Dowling says. “He really took it off the page and brought it together in a very elevated way.”
The views expressed in this opinion piece are the author’s own and do not necessarily represent those of The Daily Wire.
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