Telenovella and Indie Film Actor Manolo Cardona Talks Love Affairs and Oscar Buzz

​When Cultist schedules an interview with critically acclaimed celebrities, we do our best in terms of punctuality. On the other hand, celebrities are notoriously late and rarely apologize for the inconvenience. That's not the case with actor Manola Cardona, though, he's a mensch. And in our eyes, he just might be the next Gael Garcia Bernal -- only Colombian, not Mexican.
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Last night, the telenovella and indie film star lost track of time and left us sipping sparkling water in the lobby of the Biltmore for nearly an hour. But we weren't troubled by it. He called us to apologize, asked if we'd wait for him, citing congestion on Coral Way and an impromptu excursion with his cousin. At least we were waiting at the Biltmore and not a Holiday Inn.

Cardona's gesture was kind and natural, much like his performance in Undertow (Contracorriente), which has received critical acclaim around the globe and prestigious awards at film festivals. Tonight the film makes its first South Florida theatrical premiere at the Coral Gables Art Cinema

In Undertow, Cardona plays the role of Santiago, an openly gay painter in the small fishing village of Cabo Blanco, Peru. Santiago is involved in a secret love affair with a married man, Miguel (played by Cristian Mercado). 

While Undertow tackles traditional Latin American definitions of marriage and masculinity, Cardona feels the movie isn't so much a "gay" film, rather, "for me, it's a love story...and we just want to tell that it." 
In order to tell the story of Santiago and Miguel, Cardona partnered with writer and director Javier Fuentes-Leon. The cast and crew spent about a month and a half filming in Cabo Blano, but were hesitant at first to discuss the movie's premise with the locals. They feared the traditional town's people wouldn't consent when asked to help in the production.  Cardona admits, "It was stupid to think that we were afraid. The (locals) took it so well," and quickly caught on. 

For Fuentes-Leon, Undertow is his first feature, and the film is generating plenty of Oscar buzz. It's Peru's submission for the academy's Best Foreign Film award, and just being considered by Hollywood is enough for Cardona.

"Javier is an amazing director, and a very good friend of mine. I will be very, very happy for him, and for all the people involved in the movie," he says, "but just being [nominated], for me, is a win." 

When Cultist asked what was on the horizon post-Undertow, Cardona went on to say, "I'm always in a creative mood." Together with his brother, the actor runs a production company, 11:11 Films, in Colombia. "We just finished two projects. One is a documentary called Pablo's Hippos. It's the story of all the problems in Colombia from the 1950s through today, from the point-of-view of the Hippos of Pablo Escobar. It's a crazy story. And we just did El Cartel de los Sapos, the movie, and we're going to release it next year." 

As for whether or not Cardona will make a return to his telenovella roots, the actor says, "not right now, but maybe next year I'll act in some series (11:11 Films) is going to produce." 

We'll skip the novellas, but hope to see Cardona in more foreign indie flicks.

Undertow (Contracorriente) premieres tonight at Coral Gables Art Cinema (260 Aragon Ave Coral Gables) and runs through December 23, 2010.

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