By Monica Delgado

Although this short film by the Colombian-Brazilian filmmaker Paula Gaitán had its premiere at the Tiradentes festival in 2021, and was announced at the 71st edition of the Berlinale, due to the pandemic its exhibition had to be postponed and rescheduled pending the face-to-face edition of the festival. For this reason, Se Hace Camino al Andar (The Path When Walking, Brazil, 2021) is part of the Closer to the Ground exhibition, a series of installations at the Silent Green Kulturquartier, as part of the Forum Expanded program at the current Berlinale, which runs until February 20th. Gaitán’s short shares the stage with works by Haig Aivazian, Grace Ndiritu, Musquiqui Chihying, Maya Schweizer, Rosalind Morris, among others.

Watching the works exhibited in this exhibition in panorama, we can identify some reasons around the colonial question, the visibility of current problems from feminism or the anti-capitalist struggle, but there is also a diversity -or eclecticism- in the use of archival material, appropriation or testimony for documentary purposes.

Curated by Ala Younis, Uli Ziemons (both Forum Expanded programmers) Karina Griffith, Shai Heredia and Maha Maamoun, the Closer to the Ground exhibition maintains the spirit that has prevailed in the selection of programs in this section dedicated to experimental cinema and documentary filmmaking with more risks.

In Se Hace Camino al Andar, the filmmaker Paula Gaitán not only evokes the physical idea of ??the path but materializes a philosophical and existential premise. Walking as a metaphor of detachment, of leaving behind learning, prejudices, even knowledge, to return to a founding stage, in which we can find an innate or primal force of life.

In this short film, Paula Gaitán uses minimal still and panoramic shots so that we can witness a specific movement: a young man walking (towards us or the camera) from the horizon. The setting is a path that separates the field from a highway, on which we see cars passing by, while the walker, barefoot, travels again and again (even back and forth, or even avoiding a tractor). This opening scene is part of a choreography that is repeated several times, with some variations: the walker approaches and suddenly turns to the right and enters the cornfields. At this moment, the camera pans slightly and tracks the figure of the young man lost in the middle of a field that is too green, to the point that it becomes an abstraction, and it is there that the path traveled (which obviously disappears from the scene ) becomes part of the past, and the memory of this experience becomes fragile; and it fades.

Installation shot

In Se Hace Camino al Andar, a “peripatetic” method appears, but the only character does not seem to be interested in observing the environment to learn or perceive something while she transits. The camera proposes a method, but the character manages to escape and the camera has to turn, to continue framing him. The stranger and walker seems to affirm with his ghostliness that this walk is rather a way to unlearn. Walking to return to the origin, to the original zone of the earth and of being. For this reason, this firm walk, which runs and deviates from the path, becomes animal, after invoking the gods (in the voice and song of Ava Rocha, as the great master healer of the rite).

On the other hand, the verses of Antonio Machado (Wayfarer, there is no way. Make your way by going farther), evoked in the title of the short film, resound before the images, since from them the path, as an idea, acquires the notion of the present, immediate and elusive. And they also allow drawing the figure of the walker, as someone in constant questioning, but here in Gaitán’s work not from his reflections or new learning, but from the performative: noises, steps, movements, games in the middle of the cornfields, babbling, all from the body.

And from her careful sound work, Paula Gaitán also establishes this time and space that the body requires, from the perception of the field that vibrates, with the wind and free birds, or with the mentions of the Kuikuro, an original community that emerges in an outside of field that catches the character, already without a path, but extremely liberated.