How do women see today’s reality? What happens when the feminine eye is behind a camera?
The protest against violence, the search of identity and the approach to history from the feminist point of view were the main themes of the workshop Sample of Chilean Documentary: a Feminine Point of View, at the Fresa y Chocolate Cultural Center in Havana.
The event, the first of its kind to be held on the Island, was organized by the Cuban Film Institute (ICAIC for its Spanish acronym) and the Embassy of the Republic of Chile in Cuba, and was attended by Chilean filmmakers Verónica Qüense, María Paz González and Paola Castillo, as well as three Cuban counterparts: Lizette Vila, Gloria Rolando and Lourdes de los Santos.
The discussion dealt with the training of documentary makers, the themes tackled, public policies, social movements and documentary work, as well as with the inequality of gender and women’s achievements in recent decades. It was aimed mainly at filmmakers interested in gender themes. Its main purpose was to show feminine film activity in Chile and to analyze its effects in order to promote the exchange of ideas between Chilean documentary makers and representatives of this genre in Cuba. As a supplement to this presentation, an attractive Exhibition of Chilean Documentary Films was shown at Havana’s Multicine Infanta, opening with Locas mujeres, a film by María Elena Wood that investigates the world of Chilean poet Gabriela Mistral and her relationship with North American Doris Dana.
The program began with the projection of a fragment from El Cajón, by Verónica Qüense, a multifaceted artist, champion of women’s rights, environmentalist, professional photographer and lover of poetry. Her vision, which takes her to settle in the Chilean locality of Cajón del Maipo, has toured and captured those precise moments of a Chile that is still hard to identify: class-conscious, male-chauvinist, divided between rich and poor, between strong and weak. She focuses her lens where the majority let their eyes go without observing.
In El Cajón she describes a misogynist culture in which fear becomes part of women’s way of life, where religion and the media reaffirm the naturalness of violence against them, and in this regard she comments: “I am a feminist with a camera. I started making films twenty years ago. First it was fiction, and then I concentrated on the topic of women. I feel that I am a poet. I am a self-made person and I’m not in search of any kind of financing. In my works I show the discrimination and the place occupied by Chilean women, the violence that no one talks about, from childhood, from the family, from the religious, from society. I have learned from feminism, and I feel capable of transmitting that message. I feel great sorrow when I work on the subject of female homicide. I feel that I have a commitment because no other women are working politically on the gender theme. And the sad thing is that the girls themselves are not interested. We women need to see and listen.”
La vieja está en la cueva is, in turn, the testimony of five old women who tell the story of their lives where ill-treatment is the common denominator. In this regard, Qüense’s work establishes a dialogue with that of Lizette Vila, director of Proyecto Palomas, who presented her documentary Ni preguntas ni respuestas about the gender violence against male homosexuals, transsexuals and transvestites in today’s Cuban society.
Another topic of interest that begins to appear in this cinematography in the first decade of this century is the encounter with group identity through the search for a personal identity in a country like Chile, where vestiges of a dictatorship that, to a great extent, erased the nation’s memory, are still present. This is the theme of works like Hija (2011), by María Paz González, “a journey where lies become reality and where reality takes the form of a film;” or of Abuelos, by Carla Valencia, a film that, though autobiographical, is, according to its author, “about a human being who has such a big dream that he even gives his life for that dream.” “Something interesting is happening with the documentary in Chile; there is a diversity of styles and glimpses. The documentary remains as a place for searching but also as an artistic glance.
There is a greater trend to erase the borders between reality and fiction,” said Paola Castillo, who presented fragments from her films Salvavidas and El eco de las canciones, which show the social differences present in Chile today. Fragments of the documentaries Estado de Gracia (2000), by experienced Cuban filmmaker Lourdes de los Santos, and Pasajes del corazón y la memoria (2007) and 1912, Voces para el silencio (2010), by Gloria Rolando, one of the most active filmmakers in the field of Cuban documentary, were also exhibited during the workshop. The foreign filmmakers also had a meeting at the Foundation of New Latin American Cinema and another one with young documentary makers at the Ludwig Foundation of Cuba. They also paid visits to the Film School in San Antonio de los Baños (EICTV for its Spanish acronym) and to the Audiovisuals Faculty of the Higher Institute of the Arts (ISA).
Translated by Olimpia Esperanza Sigarroa Santamarina Revised by Susana Hurlich