Documentary Film in the Aftermath of Dictatorships in Spain, Chile and Argentina
The Politics and Aesthetics of Memory Chair. 2020 Edition
Politics and Aesthetics of Memory
All films are screened in digital format
By way of documentaries and essay films, this series sets forth different ways of approaching memory to explore the different zones of conflict between subjectivity and politics; between militancy and revolutions; between critical sexualities and gender transformations; between memory and democracy; between social defiance, constituent drives and tasks to reinvent the present.
Argentina, Chile and Spain all share the historical experience of enduring the turmoil of dictatorships, their traumatic memories seeping into individual and collective biographies exposed to military terror, censorship and repression, torture, disappearances and exile. This series, therefore, puts forward different exercises to avoid memory becoming stuck in the past, upon recalling or denouncing, whilst also exploring the temporary strata teeming with cracks, bifurcations and nooks. It is in this set of essays and documentaries where gazes mindful of the furrows of history and the creases of memory converge: inquisitive and creative memory that transcends the monumental format to penetrate fragmented narratives, fields of peripheral vision, in corporeal and affective micro-territories of wounded identities that permit doubt and estrangement as part of the reconfiguration of historical and personal memory. The programme is also traversed by a reflexive gaze, understood from the double meaning referred to by theorist Ana Amado: “Reflexive through the tendency to incorporate elements of filmic language into representation and, also, through an appeal to the critical judgement of the spectator, less conditioned by the simple sentimental or emotional identification with narrated events”.
Some of the sessions in the series are presented by members of the Politics and Aesthetics of Memory Chair’s study group, who have met regularly over the last two years under the coordination of Nelly Richard.
Presented by Carmen Castillo and José Miguel Neira (an artist, teacher and researcher, and a member of the Politics and Aesthetics of Memory Chair’s study group).
In a house on Santa Fe Street in Santiago de Chile, on 5 October 1974, Carmen Castillo is injured and her partner, Miguel Enríquez — head of the Revolutionary Left Movement (MIR) and the resistance against Pinochet’s dictatorship — dies in combat. The film-maker thus embarks on a journey, devoid of nostalgia and indulgence, to the places and scenes of the past, crossing the memory of the vanquished with her own reflection on the meaning of militancy and personal dilemmas. The film entwines her biography as a female activist with the history of a generation of revolutionaries, hard to reconstruct in a country whose transition to democracy has suffocated their memory in considering them subversive.
This conversation sets up a dialogue between the present (social uprisings, the pandemic) and a history of utopias and resistances that film work edits as a living testimony and critical memory. Carmen Castillo, a pivotal film-maker in the documentary genre, is a professor of History and a researcher at the Centre of Research into Latin American History at the Universidad Católica de Chile. She was also a member of the Revolutionary Left Movement (MIR), and since the 1970s has been a political refugee in France, where she has carried out the bulk of her work. Nelly Richard is a theorist and essayist, the author of monographic works such as La Insubordinación de los Signos: cambio político, transformaciones culturales y poéticas de la crisis (Cuarto Propio, 1994) and Residuos y metáforas. Ensayos de crítica cultural sobre el Chile de la transición (Cuarto Propio, 1998), and academic coordinator of the Museo Reina Sofía’s Politics and Aesthetics of Memory Chair.
Presented by Cristina Busto (an art historian, writer and researcher in feminisms, corporalities and memory, and a member of the Politics and Aesthetics of Memory Chair’s study group).
What is political commitment made of today? Is it still possible to change the deadly path the world is on? These are some of the questions set forth in this documentary, which is part of an intimate dialogue with Daniel Bensaïd, the now-deceased colourful French philosopher and activist with whom Castillo embarked on a journey around different territories and geographies, leading her to cross paths with people who are unaccepting of the world imposed upon them — the homeless of Paris, the Landless Workers of Brazil, Mexican Zapatistas, settlers in the working class neighbourhoods of northern Marseille, Bolivian Water Warriors, unionists from Saint-Nazaire. All of these people are part of a collective development born of frustrations and defeats, yet also, above all else, hope and forces of change reactivated by the will to act and the desire to imagine other possible worlds.
Presented by Eugenia Bournot (an art historian and cultural manager whose research focuses on artistic processes in totalitarian regimes) and Janaina Carrer (an artist and researcher currently studying a PhD in Arts at the University of Castilla La Mancha, and with an MA in Performing Arts and Visual Culture). Both are members of the Politics and Aesthetics of Memory Chair’s study group.
The family history of Albertina Carri — her father and mother, both left-wing sociologist activists, disappeared during the dictatorship in Argentina — is related via an essay film. Carri pushes the possibilities of the documentary device to its creative limit: an actress, who plays the film-maker, narrates the story; the film crew intervene in the narrative construction, discussing the significant options of the film; a children’s toy — the playmobil, with its spaces: a farm, house, car — is used to recreate a childhood interrupted by disappearance.
Presented by Marcelo Expósito (an artist and theorist whose work centres on the relationships between art, society and politics, researching post-dictatorship memory in artistic investigations).
The Revolutionary Left Movement (MIR) militants who were exiled in Europe were called to return to Chile clandestinely in the late 1970s to participate in the resistance against Pinochet. It was at that juncture that a project surfaced to leave sixty minors — the director of the documentary included — in a community home in Cuba, under the leadership of a group of MIR militants undertaking the role of educators, or “social parents”. The film conveys the narrative thread of this story of families torn apart and later reunited, with its documentary and testimony material enabling it to recreate the complexity of the political and affective fabric of such an innovative and revolutionary project that started to run out of steam in parallel with the failure of the MIR’s political programme in the 1980s.
Presented by Chema González (head of the Museo Reina Sofía’s Cultural and Audiovisual Activities).
A Spanish exile depicts Pinochet and Pinochetism in the hardest years of military repression in Chile, drawing from the power of satire to ridicule authoritarianism and its image. José María Berzosa associates two dictators worthy of repudiation who, as declared by the bishop to Chile’s armed forces at the beginning of the film, resemble one another: Franco and Pinochet. The intimate, day-to-day portrait of members of the Military Junta demonstrates the nuts and bolts of the psychology and tastes of its generals, dressed in full military splendour, with Berzosa contrasting this gallery of sinister portraits with the caustic trail of the memory of the disappeared and the suffering of the Chilean people fighting the dictatorship in the streets.
Presented by Margarita Ledo.
Margarita Ledo’s audiovisual work re-assembles the main traces of the history of the Spanish Civil War and dictatorship, piecing together micro-stories which render an account of the persistence of memory. In Santa Liberdade, Ledo spotlights the anti-Franco and anti-Salazar resistance in the early 1960s, compiling a forgotten yet hugely revealing history that disputes the theory that an active anti-Franco movement never existed. A group of Portuguese and Spanish insurgents, former exiles from the dictatorships trained in Cuba and Venezuela, hijack a commercial ocean liner. On board, they exercise a libertarian republic and hand out passports from a new Iberian federation, with the boat setting its course for the coasts of Guinea and Cape Verde to fraternise with the local people and reject, head-on, Spanish and Portuguese colonialism.
Presentation and conversation by Eloy Enciso and Misha Bies Golas, visual artist and main actor in Longa Noite.
In the wake of the Spanish Civil War, Anxo returns to his home in the Galician countryside, where he comes across other figures, the victors and the defeated in a divided Spain: a widow who doesn’t wish to remember, a tradesman who is emigrating, a Republican prisoner who describes his ordeal. The delivery of a letter forces Anxo to cross borders and become engulfed in a long Francoist night, where the ghosts many thought were forgotten invade the present. The documentary construction of the film is assembled through letters, documents extracted from civil archives and the writings of Spanish exiles like Max Aub, Luis Seoane, Alfonso Sastre and Ramón de Valenzuela. The dramaturgy of Long Night reconstructs the emotional landscape of Francoist repression via amateur actors, children of exiles and the victims of reprisals who embody these transfigurations of memory.
Presented by Estefanía Santiago (a professor in Audiovisual Communication with an MA in Art and Documentary Photography) and María Sabato (an artist whose work is concerned with public art). Both are members of the Politics and Aesthetics of Memory Chair’s study group.
The work of Lola Arias, a pre-eminent artist on the experimental theatre scene, sets out from documentary theatre and contemporary performance to put together a creative manifesto, rendering an account of how the indoctrination and massacre that occurred during the Falklands War created false patriotic meaning among Argentineans during the dictatorship. Arias convenes two groups of ex-fighters, British and Argentinian, and asks them to live together to re-live battle scenes. As memory issues forth, divested of the patriotic framework of the era, the protagonists become aware of the futility of war and the manipulation to which they were subjected via the intersubjective reconstruction prompted by Arias’s theatre and film exercise.
Presented by Carolina Piña Araya (a psychologist and activist working in art from a gender and human rights perspective), a member of the Politics and Aesthetics of Memory Chair’s study group.
Pedro Lemebel, a member of the collective Las Yeguas del Apocalipsis and a chronicler and performer, possessed an unmistakeably bold and subversive voice which, from the peripheral figure of the “loca”, or the queen, he introduced the theme of sexual dissidence in the Left’s discourse against Pinochet’s dictatorship at the end of the 1980s, before confronting the cultural officialism of neoliberal transition. The body, blood and fire were the insurgent materials incorporated into the art actions which, the last eight years he was alive, Lemebel wanted to record in a film he would unfortunately never see. This intimate and political journey Joanna Reposi shares with Lemebel recreates and reflects on his risqué performances on homosexuality and human rights.
Ventura Pons. Ventura Pons. Ocaña, Intermittent Portrait
Spain, 1978, colour, original version in Spanish, 78’
Presented by Ventura Pons, filmmaker, Janaina Carrer (an artist and researcher currently studying a PhD in Arts at the University of Castilla La Mancha) and Rodrigo Montaño (an art historian concerned with subjectivity and memory in contexts of political violence). Both are members of the Politics and Aesthetics of Memory Chair’s study group.
The focus of this session is on queer resistance, parties as rebellion during the dictatorship, carnival and transvestite identities, and the satire of heterosexual codes through pantomime. It begins with a collective of amateur film-makers (Enric Bentz, Luis Escribano, Ces Martí, Ramón Massa and Alfonso de Sierra) that decided to come together in 1975, and presents their transgressive filmography from the underground camp scene, operating around the time of the “Danger to Society” Law in Spain. This is followed the portrayal of José Pérez Ocaña’s life in the documentary portrait made by Ventura Pons, in which we see the diva, the transgressive flamenco dancer, mixed with the charnego, the worker from Andalusia who emigrates to Barcelona in a claim for freedom for the eccentric margins of difference.
Presented by Guillermina Mongan (a researcher of corporalities, networks, politics and art who is currently working as an archivist in the crew for the next film by Agustina Comedi).
In this feature-length film, Agustina Comedi explores the fracture between political militancy and the homosexuality of her father. By way of a sensitive archive of home movies in 8mm and VHS, recorded and gathered by her father, Jaime, over a number of years, it delves into various family secrets and reticence from an ethical standpoint that respects silence as it entwines family and collective histories. A political-sexual fissure that shakes the classical concepts of left-wing resistance from an individual biography at odds with the historical and social sensibility of the era.