This Friday, April 11th, the University of Pittsburgh will host documentary filmmakers Julio Ramos and Alex Schlenker for screenings and discussions of selected films. “The Poetics of Rediscovery: New Paths in Latin American Documentary” symposium will take place from 10AM-6PM in the Frick Fine Arts’ Auditorium.
The following is a brief schedule of the event:
10AM-12PM: Julio Ramos and screening of Retornar a La Habana con Guillén Lándrian followed by Detroit's Rivera
2PM-4PM: Alex Schlenker and screening of Chigualeros
4PM-6PM: Round table discussion lead by professors John Beverley, Jennifer Josten, and Emily Pinkerton
There will be an introduction by each filmmaker and a question and answer period following each screening.
Ramos has made several documentaries including La Promesa and Mar Arriba: Silvia Rivera Cusicanqui’s (Sub)versions.1 La Promesa, which documented the San Lazaro/Babalu Aye pilgrimage to Rincon, Cuba, was an official selection of the Margaret Mead Film Festival. The Puerto Rican filmmaker has also published several books on Latin American literature and culture. He is currently working on a work entitled Rivera’s Detroit, which will be screened at the Thursday event.
Rivera’s Detroit utilizes archival footage of Diego Rivera painting his famous Detroit Industry panels juxtaposed with other images from the same time period to portray common notions of progress. The film combines the Rivera images with images of Ford’s Detroit workers, and the mechanized movement of men and assembly lines starkly contrasts the smooth strokes of Rivera’s brushes. The viewer sees the tragedies of these times as well, dead workers after a strike in the city, and Frida Kahlo’s sorrowful depictions of her miscarriage. Even more footage shows Ford’s exploitation of Latin America as the contrived town of Fordlândia rises in Brazil. This interesting assortment of footage ends with a quote from Walter Benjamin which states, “This is how one pictures the angel of history. His face is turned toward the past. Where we perceive a chain of events, he sees one single catastrophe which keeps piling wreckage upon wreckage and hurls it in front of his feet. (...) But a storm is blowing in from Paradise; (…) This storm irresistibly propels him into the future to which his back is turned, while the pile of debris before him grows skyward. This storm is what we call progress.” Ramos’ unfinished documentary thoughtfully uses these archives to challenge the viewer’s notions of progress, revealing the suffering and chaos associated with moving into the future.
Although born in Germany, Schlenker lived most of his life in Ecuador.2 He received his doctorate in Latin American Cultural Studies from La Universidad Andina Simón Bolívar in Quito. He now teaches several different visual composition and photography classes at Incine in Ecuador’s capital.3 His films include El duelo, Chigualeros, and Distante cercanía. On Thursday, the screening will feature Chigualeros, a documentary that follows an Afro-ecuadorian musical group.
According to Incine, Chigualeros portrays a musical group that “describes the history, reality, and forgetfulness of the Afro nation in Ecuador.”3 The film follows Don Segundillo Quintero, the leader of the musical group “Los Chigualeros”, an afro-salsa musical group from the northern province of Esmeraldas. The film depicts their struggle to let their music be heard throughout Ecuador as well as internationally.
1) Julio Ramos. Vimeo. Vimeo. n.d. Web. 07 Apr. 2014.
2) Mejía, Daniela. “Alex Schlenker: ’Hacer una película es un acto de fé’.” El Universo. El Universo. 20 Sept. 2013. Web. 07 Apr. 2014. http://www.eluniverso.com/vida-estilo/2013/09/20/nota/1465391/alex-schlenker-hacer-pelicula-es-acto-fe
3) Incine. Incine. 2014. Web. 07 Apr. 2014.