Tell and Survive

in Documentarist – Istanbul Documentary Days

by Nadia Meflah

A story: not just of a man, but of a pacifist act of resistance. Nadia Meflah commends a film that looks at the destructive effects imposed on ancestral territories and nomadic ways of life, with the small mercy of preserved memories ensured through cinema.       

Nothing But the Sun (Apenas el sol, 2020) by Paraguayan filmmaker Arami Ullon is a story of the present as it delves into the long tragedy of genocidal colonialism. Filmed with overwhelming sobriety, where the word takes the place of a story or silences, in the same way songs carry the melancholy of the characters, the filmmaker Arami Ullon offers us a film of great political power in our present time, where the virus of capitalism is our greatest threat. Nothing But the Sun is not only the story of a man, Mateo Sobode Chiqueno, who records stories, testimonies and songs, which he has been doing since the sixties, it’s also an act of resistance. Mateo walks across communities in the Paraguayan Chaco region. With his recordings, he preserves testimonies of other Ayoreo who, like him, were born in the vast forest, free and nomadic, without any contact with western civilization… This was until religious missionaries forced them to abandon their ancestral territory and their beliefs.

The essence of the cinema, in all its’ essential technological wonder, its gift to the world, lies in its ability to create the conditions for the preservation of an erased memory. The living archive is recorded here not only by Mateao but also by the filmmaker. Its effect is poetic and luminous, despite the story of destruction at work. With her movie, Arami Ullon offers to these people another territory: the cinema. It becomes a refuge, like a shelter, but also as a mummy who preserves life before absolute destruction and amnesia. The film gives us pause to reflect on death and the inexorable passage of time. May it just be that this is simply the self-imposed fate of mankind, and here in this movie about an ancestral society forced to change to survive: But what for? The answer, terrible and brutal to witness, is in a scene where we see these men and women receiving a miserable salary, all surrounded by armed guards. This is what we have created for ourselves: Our World!

Nadia Meflah
Edited by Steven Yates