I've know Alex since high school. He transferred to my school during our Senior year. We were in english together. I remember he was quiet in class with his crazy curly red hair, blue eyes and chuck taylor's. I recall thinking even then that his eyes looked like they held stories. Lots of them. I was intrigued for sure. So what's a girl living in suburban Houston to do? Slip a note under his windshield of course. We were friends for life after that.
Fast forward 11 years. Alex was living in San Francisco and I was in Tucson. Unknown to us at the time, our meeting up in September of 2006 would open new creative worlds for each of us. For me, visiting Alex sort of shook up my comfy little life in a way that gave me the courage to call all corporate bets off and begin to seriously carve out a path as an Artist. I remember calling my dad from the Airport in Oakland, telling him - this is it - I am quitting my job in October. I am going to chase this dream of mine.
And Alex? I was with him when he played a CD he had received in the mail of his grandfather's music. We climbed hills and wove through San Francisco with windows down, Luis Angel Mera's voice serenading us the whole way. It is a good memory. It was then that Alex shared his dream to make this documentary. And folks, look what a little time and persistence can do. In 2009, Babalu: La Vida Cantada was completed. I was mesmerized the first time I saw it, deeply moved. So it is with great pleasure that I introduce you to Alex Toedtli Mera, a fellow follower of dreams....
Image from the making of Babalu
1. In October 2007, you chose to leave your job in advertising to pursue film making full time. Please tell us a little bit about what making that decision was like. How has your life changed since?
My life was changed completely. Thinking of that moment, these words, concepts and feelings come to mind: absolute FREEDOM, OPPORTUNITY, LOVE, PRESENCE, ACTION, PEACE, AWARENESS, HAPPINESS.
It was something I had been thinking about doing for a few years, just after a big change in my life 2 years before. The biggest change that has come from making that decision and preparing for it is the closeness I feel to becoming myself. Every day everything in my surroundings teaches me a bit about me.
2. What is creativity to you? What does your creative process feel like?
Creativity is LIFE. It is the engine that makes us free and unique. My process always feels better in the execution of the idea, though getting the idea is crucial. Its more childlike I guess, trial and error.
3. What led you to make this documentary?
In 2004 I received a CD with a radio program and a news article of a Colombian local paper. Both were paying homage to Luis Angel Mera. Both written by the same journalist. It was something my mother had mailed me.
I had heard very little from my mother and her family about my grandfather. Luis Angel Mera was sort of a touchy subject in the family. I knew he had been a great singer but was never curious enough to listen to a song of his throughout my entire life. So here I was, listening to a stranger, telling me the story of my grandfather. I had found the only person in my family I truly related with on another level, and we had never met. A close friend listened to the radio show with me and told me I had to do something about Luis Angel Mera. Two years later, my friend passed away, all of a sudden I was reminded of what he had told me, so I started to figure out a way to do a documentary about my grandfather. So I saved, quit my job and moved. Then I started to plan to travel to Colombia and find out whom Luis Angel Mera was.
Image from the making of Babalu
4. What are some of your favorite details/moments from the making of Babalu?
Getting to know my grandfather while traveling through Colombia by car, listening to his voice. It was as if my friends and I had invoked his spirit, he was there with us, guiding us, opening the doors to amazing places and introducing us to great people. Gathering all my family for the occasion. Becoming a Colombian. Knowing a bit more about myself.
5. What feeling do you want to evoke from your audience through this documentary?
I want to make the viewer feel what I feel in regards to Luis Angel Mera, and that is centered into a feeling of longing. We will no longer be able to experience and share with such a character, but we will always have the chance to invoke him today through his voice.
6. Describe what "Art Success" looks like to you.
I had never thought about “ART SUCCESS” until now. I guess it looks like now, once something has been created, it is a success, you want to move on to something new, keep the ball rolling, keep learning. Art is action expressed. The rest comes from that expression.
7. What words of wisdom would you share with people pioneering a path to live an authentic life following their passion?
Think, plan and simply Do it. You will not regret it. Action will lead you every step of the way. Insecurities and fears will arise; these are good signs to keep going. Nothing bad comes out of loving what you do and doing what you love, but everything needs work (action) and is hard work, it wouldn’t be worth it if it weren’t right?
8. (9) good things that came out of you following your dream:
in no particular order:
1-Knowing that anything I set myself to do is possible.
3-Seeing my personal evolution.
4-Feeling the growth of my commitment to myself and my craft.
6-Feeling connected to my surroundings like never before.
7-Knowing that I am never alone.
8-Experiencing life in another level of awareness.
9-I am LIVING my dream.