Lecturer in Film
|Land Without Evil
|The Missing Picture
|One Way or Another
|El CORAJE DEL PUEBLO
|Nice Coloured Girls
|Cosas de Mujeres
|Rosa Martha Fernández
|METAL & MELANCOLIA
Land Without Evil
At the top of the list is an unfinished film by a Latin American woman filmmaker, to pay homage to all those stunning projects never completed due to lack of financial, political, emotional or other types of support.
Beatriz Palacios (born Bolivia, c. 1945, died Cuba, 2003) was the producer and manager of the Ukamau group. Around 2003, after a lifetime of prioritising the projects of her husband and comrade, Jorge Sanjinés, Palacios was ready to film Land Without Evil. She had spent almost ten years in preparation, preproduction was complete and the budget secured. At that critical point, a severe attack of a chronic arthritic disease stopped Palacios proceeding with the filming. Not long after, she died while flying to Cuba in search of medical treatment. The film aimed to be a Marxist road movie. The script scans the vices and virtues of Bolivian society through the adventures of its "collective protagonist", a group of street children, orphans and runaways. They travel from the Bolivian highlands to the tropical forest in search of Yvy Maraey, the Guaraní utopian land without evil, where there is no suffering. Gender issues are key to the narrative.
A short documentary produced in a Super 8 workshop organised by Ateliers Varan in Atocha (Bolivia) in the 1980s. A beautiful early (pre-video and pre-digital) example of the means of film production in the hands of the subalternised populations – instead of in the hands of middle-class intellectuals, those who traditionally had mediated the voice of the so-called "voiceless". The result is a striking non-hierarchical rapport between the filmmaker (a Quechua-speaking young man from the region) and the film subject (a Quechua peasant).
Cinephiles love lists. I am not a cinephile. My overall approach to film is anti-auteurist. Cinematic processes interest me, but formalism, per se, does not. In my work, I focus primarily on use and not value. Why on Earth have I been invited to fill this poll? As Elena Gorfinkel pointed out in her manifesto 'Against Lists', this type of exercise embodies all that is wrong in how we ascribe value to films and how the medium's history has been constructed. Maybe we could devise a more rigorous and fairer way to hierarchise film products, if that were necessary. In any case, fully accepting the contradiction, I am participating in this poll because I want to raise some issues and have fun.
I start my selection with an unfinished film, Land without Evil (La tierra sin mal, Beatriz Palacios, Bolivia, n/d), as a recognition of all those dazzling women that could not finish their films as a result of a particular paradigm. The same logic resulted in the top positions in this poll being occupied by the same boring dudes for decades. For more on this issue, see the forthcoming volume Incomplete. The Feminist Possibilities of the Unfinished Film, edited by Alix Beeston and Stefan Solomon (University of California Press, 2023).
My second choice, The Missing Picture, is entirely based on the emotional impact the film had and still has on me. The rest of the movies in my list are mostly artisanal nonfictions, of short duration, and made using small gauges (16mm or even super 8mm). I wanted to include a video, but there was no room. However, some of them were distributed as videos and circulated far away from the temples of taste, in counter-public spheres, among publics that were not us (us: the lettered city) and were used and enjoyed by the audiences differently. There are no US films. The few films produced in the West were made by women in exile or belonging to marginalised communities – except for The Disenchantment, the classic choice of the daughter of the phoney Spanish democratic transition that I am.
A final methodological observation: almost all the films ever made were a collective effort. Furthermore, some of the works in my list were made in a programmatically collaborative fashion (by Grupo Ukamau, Cine Mujer Mexico, Ateliers Varan). Data collection in this poll, and similar forms, impedes an accurate reflection on the co-creation processes involved in film production. I suggest that the form designers consider this issue in future polls if only to update the cinephilic paradigm.