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Arts & Culture

Festival Interview: Lizet Benrey

Liz Benrey at the San Diego Latino Film Festival.
Rebecca Romani
Liz Benrey at the San Diego Latino Film Festival.

Local Filmmaker's Take On The Surreal

Lizet Benrey tends to shy away from the term “filmmaker.”

“I’m really an artist making film. For me, the camera is just another brush with which to express myself.”

For the Del Mar-based painter turned video artist, it is not so much the story line that counts as the feeling and spirit of the piece.


In “Leonora and Gabriel: An Instant,” part of the Experimental Shorts program, which ran on March 15, at the San Diego Latino Film Festival, Benrey found a perfect subject in British-Mexican surrealist, the legendary Leonora Carrington.

Shot on location in Mexico City in Carrington’s home and studio, Benrey’s film is fluid collage of small moments, changes in light, glimpsed artwork and impressionistic gestures. Benrey intended the film to be a meditation on one moment in Carrington’s life as Carrington transitioned from almost ferocious devotion to surrealist sculpture and painting to passing on her art to her son and reflecting on a body of work that is as extraordinary in its breadth as it is in surrealist technique.

The film follows Carrington through her house, floats as she discusses her art with her son, and seeks out important pieces of Carrington’s work tucked away in discreet corners of her studio and hiding in plain sight in hallways.

Carrington passed away in 2011, at the age of 94, shortly after the film was finished. According to Benrey, Carrington felt the non-narrative film “captured a glimpse of my life.”

Benrey, who grew up in Mexico City, chose to follow Carrington, in part, because she met Carrington through family friends, and also because Carrington’s work deeply influenced Benrey’s own painting which she considers abstract and surrealist in nature. According to Benrey, the project was shot over several hours in a single day and then edited over a period of two weeks.


“My editor and I sat for several days talking about the project. When I showed her one of my paintings, she immediately got what I wanted to do. From there, the editing was very intuitive, and it came easily. And the music was like that, too.”

Benrey says she came to film through painting.

“I was getting frustrated. I tried different things like collage, but nothing was moving.” Benrey says she is pushed by a need to create and finds film helps keep “all the doors open.” She first studied film in Mexico City and later studied at UCSD. She credits The Media Arts Center of San Diego with helping her learn digital techniques and shooting tricks to give her the ethereal, atmospheric quality she is looking for in her projects.

According to Benrey, “Leonora and Gabriel: An Instant,” will be used to create a film loop to accompany future museum shows of the Carringtons’ work, including one in San Diego.

“It will be like a surrealist projects, no beginning and no end.”

At the moment, Benrey continues to paint and be involved in film collaborations. She is currently working on a project of 22 short films.

--Rebecca Romani is a San Diego-based documentary filmmaker and freelance journalist who has covered film and culture for a variety of publications such as Cineaste, The Levantine Review, and