Q&A: Director Jim McKay’s ‘En El Septimo Dia’ is Timely and Universal

Returning to feature filmmaking after a decade in television, indie veteran Jim McKay’s EN EL SÉPTIMO DÍA is a heartfelt, subtle, and captivating portrait of an undocumented Mexican immigrant in Brooklyn’s Sunset Park. José, played brilliantly by newcomer Fernando Cardona, is a hardworking delivery man whose only respite from his overwhelming schedule is his local soccer team. But when assigned a double shift on the day of the championship, José is forced to either let down his team or lose his only source of income. Refreshingly authentic and frequently humorous, EN EL SÉPTIMO DÍA is a rare film that highlights the consequences of the most seemingly simple decisions.

Presented in participation with Organización Latino-Americana of Eastern Long Island.

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What a beautiful and timely film. Please describe EN EL SÉPTIMO DÍA in your own words.

Jim McKay: EN EL SÉPTIMO DÍA is a film that reflects our city and country at this time and place in history in a way that other films have not—undocumented immigrants at the center of a story as main characters, in a film about pride, dignity, and dedication to community and country.

What inspired you to make this film?

Jim McKay: Inspiration came from numerous places—the first draft of this film was written in 2001… I’m interested in telling stories about characters who are not typically represented in films and, living on the edge of Sunset Park, I became aware of a very specific community of immigrants—men from Puebla, Mexico—and came up with a story that was specific to them on one hand, and very universal on the other.

EN EL SÉPTIMO DÍA is very different from other projects you have worked on recently, and marks your return to independent film. What was it like to return to the movie format?

Jim McKay: It was great to get the opportunity to make a movie again—I didn’t realize how much I missed the process of writing and directing my own material. I wish I had had some of the money that you get to work with in TV world, but the spirit that the crew and cast brought to the film more than made up for that. 

What was your favorite moment of making this film?

Jim McKay: About a month before our World Premiere, we screened the film for the main cast at Union Docs in Williamsburg. None of them had seen it yet and up until then, I’m not sure they had a very firm grip on what exactly this project was going to be—they obviously were on set and around the cameras and small crew, and they knew I was an experienced director, but they are all non-actors and this is the first time they had ever read a script, no less acted on camera. So I think there was a slight sense of mystery. Being with them as they watched themselves on screen—the film looked beautiful and their performances were so good—I could feel the massive sense of pride that they felt upon seeing their work. That was gratifying and rewarding for me.

With such a diverse background (including working on shows like LAW & ORDER, BREAKING BAD, MR. ROBOT, THE WIRE, in addition to your films), what advice can you give aspiring filmmakers?

Jim McKay: I think people should stop studying filmmaking so intensely and spend more time studying life—people, places, experiences. American cinema, in particular, could benefit from less cinematic panache and more unique and mature storytelling.

What are you hoping Hamptons audiences will take away from EN EL SÉPTIMO DÍA?

Jim McKay: We’ve only just started showing the film in the U.S. and abroad, but I’m starting to see and feel more and more how very American this story is. Despite our government’s attempts to turn back the clock on immigration, diversity, and just about everything else that is not white, male and living in the past, this story and its characters represent our country at its strongest, most vital, and most optimistic. Industry people have been seeing the film as a “foreign film”—I think that’s kind of funny because it was shot in the U.S. and features people who live in the U.S. This is America now. I hope the audience sees themselves in the movie and sees the world a little differently after.

What are you looking forward to most at HIFF25? 

Jim McKay: I’m hoping that some of our cast can make it to the film and hear from the audience after the film. That’s one of the most gratifying things about festival screenings—connecting with viewers who are passionate about film and sharing the excitement of a screening event.

Check out the screening of EN EL SÉPTIMO DÍA in the World Cinema section of HIFF25. Find Tickets. Follow the film on Facebook.