Dallas filmmaker Merced Elizondo's newest short film "Manos De Oro" was filmed in Oak Cliff. (Photo by Exploredinary)
"Narcos: Mexico" actor Julio César Cedillo stars in Manos De Oro.
Richard Jackson and Jero Medina also star in "Manos De Oro."
"Manos De Oro" is currently competing in the Latinx Short Film Competition for a spot on HBO.
“I grew up loving movies and I loved to write, but I didn’t know how to manifest it,” Merced Elizondo tells PaperCity. A University of Texas at Austin alum, 26-year-old Elizondo didn’t take the traditional route of applying to the Radio-TV-Film program. “At UT, I thought that there was no way a Mexican-American guy from Oak Cliff could make it, so I settled for advertising.”
But after participating in a summer internship in New York at NBC Universal and seeing friends pursuing their own dreams in the city, Elizondo thought, why not pursue his own? The following semester, he interned at a film production company in Austin, joined a writing incubator with Robert Zimmer, and signed up for a course. “It was like film school for me,” he says.
After graudation, Elizondo landed a job as a production coordinator at AMS Pictures in his home city of Dallas. After reading tons of books and watching YouTube videos, Elizondo shot his first two short films: a relationship drama called Right Where You Left Me and thriller, Just Lie Here. But his most recent work, Manos De Oro (Hands of Gold), is much more personal.
In 2019, Elizondo’s father was hospitalized for a month, keeping him away from his job as a mechanic. “I put away the other script I was working on and decided there was something personal here,” he says. Although the film is only semi-autobiographical, the exploration of machismo and mental health disorders in the Latino community is very real.
As for how he got Narcos actor Julio César Cedillo to star in Manos De Oro, Elizondo jokes that he slid into his DMs on Instagram. It was surprisingly effective — Cedillo promptly asked Elizondo to give him a call back to discuss the film. The addition of the experienced actor moved the film in even more impressive directions. Cedillo recruited Richard Jackson (No Country for Old Men) along with fellow Narcos actor Jero Medina, who would play his son.
Manos De Oro follows Sergio (Cedillo), a widower and former mechanic who attempts to regain his identity while struggling with crippling arthritis. His son, Fernando (Medina) remains by his side as his father begins to go down a self-inflicted path of destruction due to this internal conflict.
Filmed completely in black and white, and in Spanish (with English subtitles), Elizondo was inspired by the French New Wave movement. “I only ever saw it in black and white in my head,” he says. “There’s a beauty to it that forces you to pay attention.”
“I’m most proud that you don’t have to be Mexican-American or speak Spanish to know that it’s OK to ask for help,” Elizondo says of the message he hopes Manos De Oro resonates with viewers. “Mental health is seen as taboo in the Mexican-American community and it’s very toxic. Our generation is the first to open a conversation.”
Most of the 33-minute film was shot in Oak Cliff over six days, while a home in Arlington served as another set. “I’m the kind of filmmaker that writes what I have access to,” Elizondo says. Working at local production companies by day and indie filmmaking by night, Elizondo hopes to be something like the next Richard Linklater of Dallas. “I’m a proud Texas filmmaker, but an even prouder Dallas filmmaker,” he says.
Manos De Oro is currently in the running in the Latinx Short Film Competition for a chance to be included on HBO’s streaming platforms in the Official Latino Film and Arts Festival from Nov. 27-30. Until then (if it’s selected as one of three films included), you can catch a sneak peak from behind the scenes below.