By Monica Delgado

After the October 2021’s of documentary Veladores, Paraguayan filmmaker Paz Encina quickly returns to the screens with a political fiction about the destruction of a community. Made possible with a series of international funds, EAMI (2022), which competes for the Tiger award, is an elegy on the disintegration of the native Ayoreo Totobiegosode people, who reside between the Paraguayan and Bolivian Chaco, and how Mennonite landowners intervene on their lands.

From her first scene, a fixed shot of a terrain through which a series of symbolic elements pass, the filmmaker proposes the poetic meaning of everything that we will see later, as a synthesis of an entire story. But this beginning of the story does not come from a poetic sense of exaltation, of sublimation through the return to the Adanic, to the Eden of natural life, or anything that has to do with the imagery of the good savage, but with a critical approach about loss, forced displacement and resignation. A fragment of land where feathers, leaves, dust, ashes, shadows pass, and where the land succumbs to a sound narrative that goes from the mythical and foundational origin (the echoes of creation) to the crackling product of certain fire that announces an expulsion. And also in this intro of the emotional, historical and mythological concretion of a community, a voice-off of a woman from the town establishes the plane of the imaginary, from the personification of some animal figures of freedom and the power of that community life; like the quote from Asoja, the bird god beyond time and space. From start to finish, hand in hand with the thoughts of the voiceovers, Paz Encina builds the forms of the lament. The land of this Ayoreo people will be lost and we have to close our eyes so as not to see this separation and dissolution any more.

EAMI can be a child but it can also be earth. This indissoluble relationship also sets the tone of the film, and this is the most pleasant perspective in a complex work. Paz Encina not only resorts to the use of voice-over to order an entire mentality and feel about a resistance, but also establishes a montage where the limits of reality on those Ayoreo characters (already expelled and serving their landowners) and the memory or memories of their territory in a past that they want to preserve, are interspersed in a subtle way. The borders become fragile and the practical mechanics of the landowners -in its functionality- seem to absorb or dilute the opportunity of this introspective exercise. Is this preservation possible or do we have to live between expulsion and longing? This seems to be the central premise of EAMI, and what Encina proposes is a memory strategy, that is, to elucidate this way of making it possible through the live feeling of an entire community, with all that this implies from this context of displacement.

The threat of deforestation, water pollution, the construction of roads, fires to generate crops, events that are denting a corporeity in EAMI. It is interesting for this reason, that metaphorical scene where a child sleeping in the field is replaced, in a hyperbolic montage, by gigantic tubers or fruits produced by the new agricultural activity in the area. On the other hand, the entire Mennonite presence, which seems timeless, with echoes of old westerns (or with quotes from the inevitable film by Reygadas, who is part of the team of producers here), in any case establishes a historical panorama that extends to today, although this is not precise. A displacement and “civilizing” process that a Mennonite only auscultates from the window of her room. Although at times some sound or visual resources are perceived as repetitive (such as the metaphor of resisting watching the destruction), EAMI is a work of political forcefulness on a par with other works by the filmmaker -such as Ejercicios de Memoria (2016)-. It is not only about exalting this powerful film from its role of harangue or cry of loss, but from the style proposal, which transmits the inability and frustration from an imaginary that survives from the sonority, the noises and the dreamed power of the earth.

Tiger Competition
Director: Paz Encina
Script: Paz Encina
Music: Joraine Picanerai, Fernando Velázquez Vezzetti
Cintematography: Guillermo Saposnik
Cast: Anel Picanerai, Curia Chiquejno Etacoro, Ducubaide Chiquenoi, Basui Picanerai Etacore, Lucas Etacori, Guesa Picanerai, Lazaro Dosapei Cutamijo
Paraguay, France, Germany, Argentina, Mexico, United States, Holland,
85 m