In the somber drama, “Dos Estaciones,” María García, the heir of a once-glorious tequila factory, is a beacon for her townspeople in isolated Atotonilco, Jalisco. García (respectfully referred to as Señora María) helms a tequila fabrica, which has been hindered by a plague that threatens blue agave and the encroachment of foreign competitors. Teresa Sánchez, the Orizonti and Ariel award-winning Mexican actress, delivers a dramatically quiet performance as García, commanding respect with her tough demeanor, intense glares, and subtle gestures of kindness. Sánchez brilliantly conveys Señora María’s plight: weighed down by a barrage of troubles, she still bears the responsibility to provide stable employment for her family, friends, and neighbors.
Filmmaker Juan Pablo González centers the film in the town where he grew up in rural Mexico. Having previously worked on several documentaries based on the region — “Porque el Recuerdo” (2014) and “Caballerango” (2018) — he incorporated components of non-fiction storytelling and cinematic shots of the laborious tequila-making process to tell María’s story. The picturesque scenes of the warm sun rising over the fields of agave set a hopeful tone.
During the film’s premiere at the 2022 Sundance Film Festival, LATINA spoke with Sánchez about her role in the film and the underlying socio-political issues embedded in María’s fictional narrative, which impact real life in the highlands of Jalisco. Days later, Sundance awarded Sánchez the prestigious World Cinema Dramatic Special Jury Award for Acting. The lead actress tells LATINA that without González’s deep understanding of the human experience behind the tequila industry, the development of María’s character would not have been possible.
The cast was fully immersed in Atotonilco during the filming, sharing everyday life with the locals. Sánchez shares, “Todo este universo lo vas conociendo a través de sus anécdotas, de sus vivencias…llegas a convertir esto como en una especie de hermandad.” [You get to know this whole universe through their anecdotes, their experiences… you end up turning this into a kind of brotherhood.]
Although the tequila company in “Dos Estaciones” is fictional, local townspeople were recruited to act in the film. Rafaela Fuentes (Rafaela), the young newcomer recently laid-off from a tequila factory from another town and whom María hires to help her with administrative duties, is an actual tequila factory manager at the distillery where González filmed. She is one of the film’s handful of acting first-timers. About the director’s portrayal of the town, Sánchez says: “Para mí Juan Pablo es un gran documentalista, logra abrazar esta parte de lo que está sucediendo en realidad, y en la vida de estos individuos.” [For me, Juan Pablo is a great documentary filmmaker, he manages to embrace this part of what is happening, and in the lives of these individuals.]
Prior to making this film, Sánchez admits that aside from knowing good tequila from bad tequila, she had no previous understanding of the industry. In addition to González’s expertise, Sánchez credits Rafaela Fuentes for the real-life experiences and knowledge she shared.
When compared to her past work, Sánchez’s role as María is a departure from the charming and playful Minitoy character in “Chambermaid” (2018) who attempts to get the protagonist to abandon her introverted personality. In Nicolás Pereda’s semi-improvised documentary-style film, “Verano de Goliat” (2010), Sánchez plays the role of an emotional mother tormented by the absence of her husband. María, as opposed to Minitoy and Teresa, is an austere woman of few words that has built a wall over the years and rarely lets anyone in. She represents an anomaly as a woman in a world of jimadores: she has had to adopt a patriarchal role in her community to assert her authority. Through subtle gestures and expressive glares, the viewer gets glimpses of María’s unspoken thoughts and desires.
Sánchez explains that although she does not see herself in María — and at times felt uncomfortable while filming — she eventually came to understand her character’s personality and motives. For example, María’s lack of human connection pushed the actress to adapt her performance with empathy. “A María la amo porque siento que llegué a conocer su parte vulnerable de una manera muy clara y conclusiva,” explains Sánchez. [I love María because I feel like I got to know her vulnerable part in a very clear and conclusive way.]
González’s placement of awkward dialogue paired with long moments of silence allows the audience to see and understand María through her physical expressions. In a scene in which María and Rafaela drive in a new truck that María has borrowed, María jokingly asks her employee, whom she hadn’t paid due to the company’s financial struggles, if she likes her new truck. Unable to land the joke, the question is followed by a long pause; Rafaela refuses to answer, as she’s irritated by the idea of her boss taking advantage of her and the other factory workers. María’s deadpan tone rarely changes throughout the film, but in this scene, there’s amusement in her eyes. After clarifying that she borrowed it, the two women giggle, sharing a moment of light humor.
About María: “María tiene lo que muchos tenemos, esta parte oscura, que a veces no la queremos dejar ver, pero también tiene esta parte luminosa donde quiere ayudar y a veces no sabe cómo demostrarlo,” adds Sánchez. [María has what many of us have, this dark side, that sometimes we don’t want to let others see, but she also has this bright side where she wants to help and sometimes doesn’t know how to show it.]
The film is less about the underlying political issues behind the tequila industry and more about the human experience. In fact, Sánchez believes we can all relate to María. She adds, “Finalmente estamos hablando de un ser humano que crece con una rigidez que no pidió y que esa rigidez le ayuda a encontrar un camino que explota, desarrolla y toca muchas vidas.” [Finally we are talking about a human being who grows with a rigidity that she did not ask for and that rigidity helps her find a path that she exploits, develops, and affects many lives.] Sánchez’s subdued performance embodies the flight or fight response of someone dealing with legacy and loss. Indeed, audiences will admire María’s resilience and ultimately discover that this tequilera’s plight is universal.