Recuerdos / Remembrance

in 18th Guadalajara International Film Festival

by Nelson Carro

Recuerdos (Remembrance), the Mexican feature that won the FIPRESCI Prize at the 18th Muestra de Cine Mexicano in Guadalajara, had a slow and complicated genesis which took almost five years (1999-2003). Since the beginning there was a central character: Luis Frank, a Lithuanian born at the end of the 19th century, who emigrated to New York in the first years of the 20th century, was an American spy in Paris during the First World War, a Republican militant in the Spanish Civil War and then an exile in Mexico, where he started a new life and founded a family.

During his Spanish period, Luis Frank shot two documentaries and by the end of his life he planned to remake one of them; however, he died before finishing his work. For that reason one of his sons, José Frank, proposed to director Marcela Arteaga to bring the film to a conclusion. More than in the material itself, impossible to assemble in a manner truthful to Frank’s vision, Marcela Arteaga got interested in his hazardous life, which turned him into a witness of many decisive moments of history in the 20th century.

Although Recuerdos’ focus is on Luis Frank and tries to reconstruct his life through a series of interviews done in Mexico, Lithuania, Spain, France and Great Britain, it goes beyond the biographic testimonial to turn into a personal reflection on a century marked by war, exile, violent upheavals which forced people to restart their lives and rebuild family ties in other countries, in other languages, in different places one had to adopt and adapt to, while remembering and longing for a lost past.

A film of atmosphere, feelings, textures, more than certainties, Recuerdos appeals basically to emotion, using resources that are rarely used in a documentary. As important as the interviews and testimonies, are Celiana Cárdenas’ extraordinary cinematography, André Krassoievitch’s art direction, Gustavo Arteaga’s music score and Lena Esquenazi’s sound design, as well as a mise-en-scène that could be called Tarkovskian”, surprising in the work of a filmmaker previously known only for her short films.

If one had to underline one of those aspects, undoubtedly Recuerdos’ biggest achievement is its editing. The director herself has declared that it was the longest and more complicated part of the whole process. Finally, after three years of work, Sigfrido Barjau, Roberto Bolado and Marcela Arteaga managed to integrate and lend form to all the separate materials in one coherent, organic, complex and moving whole. While looking back to a tragic century, Recuerdos sings a song of nostalgia, freedom, memory, dreams, ideals and the enormous capability of man to overcome adversity.