Desaparecidos: New Mexican Documentary

Leaving your house knowing that you might never come back is an ordinary feeling amongst people living in Mexico. It doesn’t matter who you are, or who you’re not, no one is immune to the day-to-day dangers. But people don’t really think about it; it has become part of life. In the past decade, levels of violence have escalated to horrifying numbers. Gradually, drug cartels merged with the government, the police, the army, the media…and suddenly Mexicans were left with a country where political campaigns are funded by the cartels, the army and the police follow orders of anyone above them, and the mainstream media covers up all the grimy work done by the authorities, manicuring stories and presenting them as if everything was normal. In a country where kidnapping, rapes and human trafficking are a common occurrence, mass graves are found day and night, and people disappear by the hour, while the current president invites Donald Trump for a visit, citizens have found a way to normalize the chaos in order to get on with their lives. They’ve gotten used to the perpetual presence of the army and armed police in public spaces, the sound of gunshots as a background noise, the constant search for missing people…the country is going through an invisible war that no one recognises, and therefore it keeps crawling into every corner of every street, going through every crack of every building and flowing through the veins of every individual whose shouts for justice are persistently muted by the establishment.

This year, Document presents a strand of New Mexican Documentary where three women filmmakers depict poetic stories of individuals that expose the complexities of the current state of affairs in Mexico. Betzabé García’s Kings of Nowhere conveys the recurrent fear that people have of invisible forces appearing out of nowhere to destroy lives and communities. Tempestad, directed by Tatiana Huezo, interweaves the stories of two women that have been victims of Mexico’s invisible war: Adela, one of the many mothers looking for her disappeared daughter, and Miriam, one of the countless innocent people that are incarcerated to pay for the crimes of others. An intimate portrait of prostitutes is captured by Maya Goded in Plaza de la Soledad, where she paints a picture with a new light featuring the women’s beauty and dignity, and the strength of an underground community that has been around since the Aztecs.

The courage of filmmakers like Betzabé García, Tatiana Huezo and Maya Goded are a contribution towards triggering change in Mexico; it is through these efforts and the efforts of many others that we are able to make this invisible war visible to the world by bringing these stories to international audiences and generating global awareness of Mexico’s status quo.

Carla Novi

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Closing Gala: Plaza de la Soledad

Seventeen years ago, multiple award-winning photographer Maya Goded started a photo book about the prostitutes of La Merced, a district of Mexico City. She became close friends with Carmen and Letty, a relationship that would bloom into her first feature film project.

Shot over a period of four years, Plaza de la Soledad follows a wider family of women negotiating the darkness of their pasts and the precariousness of their future on the unforgiving streets. The film is one of great warmth and humour despite the violence that permeates their lives. They overflow with the energy and bravado of youth and, as they have grown older together, they have learned how to give each other the strength to continue. Premiered at the renowned Sundance Film Festival, the film is a masterful portrait of extraordinary people and a powerful case for female autonomy.

“My intention has always been to encourage viewers to confront their own prejudices about prostitution, sex and ageing, to reflect on the complexity and the different forms that love – and loneliness – can assume.” Maya Goded.

Info

Event: Screening

Director: Maya Goded

Year: 2016

Country: Mexico

Date: Sunday 23 October

Time: 8.00pm

Running Time: 1hr 25m

Location: CCA Theatre

Nobody Plays the Trombone Anymore

Cuberto Ortíz Ramos has been missing since September 26, 2014. Together with 42 other young students, he was kidnapped in the town of Ayotzinapan. In his rural village, his absence is acutely felt by family, friends and the local band in which he played the trombone.

This event is free and unticketed.

Info

Event: Screening

Director: Hari Sama

Year: 2016

Country: Mexico

Date: Friday 21 October

Time: 3.00pm

Running Time: 10m

Location: CCA Intermedia

Opening Gala: Kings of Nowhere

We open this year’s festival with a haunting and lyrical gem from Mexican director Betzabé García.

The construction of a dam turned the Mexican village of San Marcos into a waterlogged ghost town, but three families refuse to surrender their home to the flood. Even the constant, lurking threat of armed gangs roving the countryside and the loneliness of living amid ruins can’t deter them from their routines. They keep the tortillería open, weed the pavement in the town square, and rove the inundated streets in boats or on horseback. García’s observational approach brings out the humour and eerie beauty of their singular situation.

As protagonist Pani remarks, “In life there are no handles…we are floating in the universe.” Kings of Nowhere is the story of how a town of 300 families became three and how ordinary people survive and respond to the rising tide of fear.

Info

Event: Screening

Director: Betzabé García

Year: 2015

Country: Mexico

Date: Thursday 20 October

Time: 8.00pm

Running Time: 1hr 25m

Location: CCA Theatre

Tempestad

A profound, emotional journey, Tempestad weaves together the stories of two women enmeshed in a Kafka-esque spiral of corruption and injustice. The film is a meditation on the notion of “impunidad,” the impunity or unaccountability of those in power, whether the Mexican government or the country’s dense network of drug cartels. Tatiana Huezo’s poetic rendering of Mexico’s invisible war is a work of tremendous cinematic force, reminiscent of the work of Chantal Akerman, touching as it does on the power of familial bonds and the legacy of trauma; a film steeped in loss and pain, but also love, dignity and resistance.

Tempestad will be introduced by artist and filmmaker Carla Novi.

Info

Event: Screening

Director: Tatiana Huezo

Year: 2016

Country: Mexico

Date: Friday 21 October

Time: 8.30pm

Running Time: 1hr 45m

Location: CCA Theatre