BERLINALE 2020: A PROGRAM FOR LATIN AMERICA

This entry was posted on February 29th, 2020

By Mónica Delgado

The program 6 of Forum Expanded was particularly interesting for me. And this doesn’t have to do with the quality of the films shown, but the criteria used to select them and group them. Laura Huertas Millán’s Jíibe, Jonathas de Andrade’s Jogos Dirigidos and Ava Vaz’s Apiyemiyekî? were all projected in this sesion, three works that have as a common denominator being solely from Latin America. Beyond the intentions of each filmmaker, the motives or styles, it seemed that the theme of belonging to a certain country in the region was a primordial fact to group them. Something that didn’t happen, for example, with program 9, which gathered the works of Kevin Jerome Everson (Recovery), Margaret Honda (Equinox) and Graeme Arnfield (The Phantom Menace, a film I will talk about in another post), whose articulating thread stops in certain forms or tendencies of structural cinema, showing a variety of supports (digital, analogue, 16mm, 70mm, etc.). But this didn’t happen with the selection of Latin America.

If it’s indeed true that the Latin American shorts in this Forum expanded board themes from anthropology, ethnography or historical investigations (Apiyemiyekî? and Jíibie), they’re works with different visual approaches, and where a film like the one directed by Jonathas de Andrade (Jogos Dirigidos) does not only feels out of tone for being in a comedic or satirical key, but it also affirms the idea of the geographical criteria above any other else, since it looks quite disconnected from the other two.

Laura Huertas Millán’s Jíibie (Colombia, France, 2019) starts with a warning, which indicates that the short we’re about to see it’s not about cocaine, but coke as a medicinal plant. Maybe the warning is unnecessary or moralist, since what the filmmaker poses is the search of the ancestral use of coke with magical and healing ends, since the times of the colony to today. Huertas Millán interviews a leader of the Uioto originary town (in the frontier of Colombia and Peru) who narrates from some oral myths, the origin of “good coke”.

What’s interesting about Huertas Millán’s short film is this tracking of the use of coke in the amazon, since the plant is usually linked to the Andean territories. It shows a process of purification, of concrete acts in close-up shots (of hands which separate, grind, press, or mouths which narrate), that signals the use (inhaled), and how the leaves mutate to this green dust, which helps reflection, and a connection with nature.

In the other hand, Jonathas de Andrade’s Jogos Dirigidos, also appeals to text when closing it’s short, announcing that what we’ve just seen is part of the work of a community of deaf and mute people in some rural zone of Brazil. What started as a very physical register of games like charade, hide-and-seek, or the chair game, which allowed a well made abstraction of the gestures, became little by little in an ONG-kind-of compensation in support of the development of these families with certain disabilities which live in the margins (maybe the intention of the filmmaker was to portray with some irony this visual exuberance of the gestures?). De Andrade has a very good short film of 2016, O Peixe. I missed that kind of work a little bit.

Lastly, we share a text from Jessica McGoff about Apiyemiyekî?, from her recent coverage of IFFR 2020 for Desistfilm, where she indicates that “Vaz’s process of excavation is one led by investigation and interrogation. The short takes on a foreboding and ominous tone, Vaz does not allow the revelation of this archive to be a straightforwardly celebratory discovery, rather, a call for interrogation. Analysis of the violence captured in these drawings is essential, acting as a tool for resisting nostalgia for the dictatorship era. The primary instinct behind these drawings was not one of documentation without query.”

Three short films, with different themes, that might’ve been valued differently in relation to other shorts of the other programs. Or is it that Latin American experimental cinema is stuck in the ethnographic and anthropological vision? We believe it isn’t, and that’s the challenge.