CINEMA AS A POLITICAL AND VISUAL ESSAY

RAÚL CAMARGO

The development of Latin American cinema has always been linked to the development of the region’s major powers: Argentina, Mexico and Brazil remain as the main hubs in our precarious film industry. But while those countries hoped to follow in North American footsteps, a number of other filmmakers wanted to promote a cinema with strong social commitment and a great sense of aesthetics. This synthesis was the major contribution of a new Latin American cinema which emerged during the fifties and sixties. However, when referring to those who stood at the forefront of this movement, we always find the same names; always the same men. That is why we wanted to highlight the contributions made by two women from neighboring countries; countries which have often been in opposition and which were missing a tradition in film. Colombia and Venezuela not only share borders but also lacked major cinema references until the emergence of two women who, through documentary, left lasting footprints.

An outstanding feature of Margot Benacerraf is her high visual sense, as expressed in her amazing opera prima centered on painter Armando Reverón. The work was broadly acclaimed by a world which couldn’t be more surprised by this brief poetic essay about creation, made by an unknown female filmmaker from a country with virtually no film industry. A film of atmosphere, chiaroscuros and details, Reverón (1951-1952) opened the doors to the debutant’s first feature length, which has proven to be one of the best documentaries of all time both because of its visual meaning and a strong political message against exploitation: Araya, screened in FICValdivia 2012.

Marta Rodríguez also surprised and shook audiences with her great opera prima, which promoted a filmography linked to ethnographical cinema and denunciations of exploitation. Chircales (1966-1971) is a social essay and documentary which managed to establish a particular approach to making films in a country plagued by violence. Such an approach simply means living with those you intend to portray and becoming one with them, instead of creating distance and/or taking cinematographic advantage of people who live under constant subjugation. The idea is to develop a sense of community instead of individualism.

Both filmmakers, with different tools, created fundamental works for the history of Latin American film, establishing a line of work based on documentaries, where aesthetics and politics come together in a critical reflection about society that is still much needed in our continent. Unity is strength.