Students take to the streets
Students in Buenos Aires have taken to the streets in protest against the appalling conditions to be found in many of the city’s schools. A lack of heating in the cold winter just coming to an end has brought to a head a state of neglect which has been building up for several years. In the inimitable style of Argentine tradition, there have not only been occupations of at one point as many as forty of the city’s secondary schools, but classes have been taking place in the street. The protests have been going on for a month, and have now been been joined by university students belonging to several faculties where buildings are in similarly bad condition.
This was not what I was expecting to find when I arrived in Buenos Aires to give a talk about teaching documentary at an event promoted by the Ministry of Education and intended primarily as a showcase for creative practices in the universities. I was also supposed to be speaking at the University of Buenos Aires, which was cancelled when Social Sciences, the faculty where this was due to take place, was occupied when a window fell on one of the students. So instead I go to film the occupation, and the demonstration being mounted outside the Ministry of Education. Here’s the result.
Glauber Rocha’s Antônio das Mortes is surely one of the most astonishing films to come out of Brazil in the 1960s…
See my review of the new DVD release in Sight & Sound here
Cuba 2, Venezuela 1
Three DVDs have turned up, two about Cuba and one about Venezuela, which portray different perspectives on revolutionary politics in Latin America at different stages. Mike Wayne & Deirdre O’Neill’s Listen to Venezuela is a lengthy report on the Venezuelan process by a pair of leftist intellectuals on an academic research scholarship, dense with information about what is really going on there. With our memory on the future (Con la memoria en el futuro) presents the veteran Cuban documentarist Octavio Cortázar looking back shortly before his death in 2008, revisiting the territory of his 1974 documentary, With Cuban Women (Con la mujeres cubanas), asking if women’s lot has genuinely improved and machismo is on the decline. Filmically the most satisfying, Andrew Lang’s Sons of Cuba is the work of a young British film-maker, an agile portrait of a boxing academy for youngsters in Havana. Continue reading
Arriving in Atlántida, the location for Uruguay’s documentary festival Atlantidoc, gave me a very strange sensation. A sleepy coastal town near Montevideo, I had the feeling that I’d been here before, or somewhere very much like it. Searched my memory for other seaside towns in Latin America visited over the years, but none quite fitted the bill. Later I realised. It wasn’t a place but a film I was thinking of: a Argentine documentary from a few years ago by Mariano Llinás appropriately entitled Balnearios (‘Bathing Resorts’). For the next few days I feel like Kafka’s butterfly dreaming he was a man who couldn’t decide if he was really a man dreaming he was a butterfly. Continue reading
Well I’ve just had one whirlwind of a trip. First, five nights in Atlantida, a very sleepy seaside town just along the coast from Montevideo (which I didn’t get to visit) on the La Plata estuary, for a small but extremely friendly documentary film festival called Atlantidoc, where I taught a workshop in directing documentary. Fifteen participants from half a dozen Latin American countries, not students but young film-makers out there hustling to get their films made, highly intelligent and articulate. Lots of animated conversation in the festival cafe on the beach, and late night screenings in the open air. More about this later.
Over on ‘Open Spaces‘, Patty Zimmerman recently wrote about the vitality of cinema studies south the Rio Grande. She talks about attending a conference in Mexico and how she ‘heard brilliant analyses of films I didn’t know about. I listened to debates that never migrate al norte. I met passionate scholars mining the theoretical complexities of Mexican and Latin American cinemas beyond the confines of national identity formation. It was exhilarating. I loved being thrown into a place where I didn’t have any of the usual coordinates.’
Here in London we have been fortunate over the last few days to enjoy the same thing on a smaller scale at a conference attended by scholars from Brazil and Argentina, brilliantly devised and organised by Jens Anderman at Birkbeck, in the second of a series of three events in the three countries under the general title of Reality Effects, which included screenings of three recent films which all challenge the conventions of documentary. Continue reading