Five F—-ing Days Of His Life: A Short Interview With Director Tommy Davis

Tommy Davis gave Wendy Maldonado a voice with his documentary Every F—-ing Day of My Life. We reached out to the filmmaker to pose some of the nagging questions that remain after viewing the film.

The story you told was literally arresting - I felt like I could not pull my eyes away from the screen. How did you discover the Maldonado story, and why did you think this would be a good documentary?

The thing is I was looking to make a very personal film that dealt with someone having a finite amount of time. One subject that has always interested me was the idea of a person being sentenced to prison. I figured if I could manage to find someone that was out on bail and had a few days left before they turned themselves in, there might be something in there. So I just started reading the papers and searching the web. At one point I was all set up to head out to Florida to film this guy and he changed his mind, which was understandable - so I had to scramble a bit. I remember doing another Google search and reading about a woman that killed her husband. The subject seemed sensational but I knew I wouldn't make that type of film, so I thought let's see what happens if I fly up there and call up her attorney.

When I got to Oregon I drove to her attorney's office and he gave Wendy a call. Wendy and her family got some info about my last film, Mojados, and they figured they would at least meet with me. We met a few hours later at a diner in Grants Pass and I started filming the next morning.

What led you to use so much home video footage in your work?

Sincerity, pretty much. In HBO's version there are lot of home videos are included and I think it works really well. In the theatrical version there are less home videos and it works well there too.

The strong thing about these home videos is that there is no filter on them. It's not some staged interview nor is it a conversation that's being manipulated. They are 5, 10 or 15 years old and they add a great deal of sincerity to both versions.

In another interview, you mention that you noticed the home videos were tightly edited [mostly by Aaron] to remove any overt reference to violence. But what did you see in the videos that tipped you off to the edits?

Oh, it was just that you would see a scene with one of the kids and they would not be smiling and off camera you'd hear Aaron tell the kid (or Wendy) to smile. All of a sudden the camera would get shut off for a moment and when the picture turned back on everyone would be standing in the same place, but with smiles on their faces.

I called the family and asked about it and they kind of nonchalantly said, yeah that's how it was, just re shoot the scene so everyone looks happy.

The other thing is these home videos are incredibly well done. I mean they were lit properly, framed really well.

Did you have a chance to reach out to Aaron Maldonado's side of the family? Only Aaron's brother appears in the film. What was their reaction to the proceedings?

I reached out to them and the police. The police declined and I never heard back from Aaron's family. You have to respect that - they're entitled to their privacy.

That said, I tried to keep the film tightly focused on Wendy and her last five days. I reluctantly included the neighbors because Wendy referred to them in a casual conversation. It helped the story flow to include their interviews. I wasn't out to make a film defending her or examining the case. I wanted to make a personal film about her and I wanted to do it in an oblique sort of way.

Did you notice a difference in reactions when you screen the film? Do women react to the documentary differently than men?

Women can handle it - they don't blink. Generally, the men tend to look away.

What did you think of the statement of the judge who looked as if he was handing down a decision he did not accept? Do you think the governor could (or should) have pardoned Wendy and Randy?

The judge was just being a judge. He had the power to help enforce the laws, not make them. But he was still out there saying that people can look into getting these laws changed.

You mentioned in an interview that you did not want to intrude upon the lives of the Maldonados further, after they had already opened up to you for the film. Do you still keep in contact with them? Would Wendi appreciate letters? (Many of our readers wanted to write to her.) How are the other three Maldonado boys?

Well interviews and Q&A's are kind of strange in that people like to ask about things - about the family - things outside of the film. But looking at it, the family gave me five days and I made a film out of that and I don't feel right talking about how they're doing now or what they're up to.

There will be an announcement soon on Quintomalo.com and Oneminutetonine.com about a fund being established for Wendy's sons.

Tommy Davis [Official Site]
Mojados: Through the Night [Official Site]
SXSW 2008: Tommy Davis, One Minute to Nine [Spout]
Quinto Malo Productions [Official Site]
One Minute to Nine [Official Site]

Earlier: Every F-ing Day Of My Life: One Day Of Violence Is One Day Too Many