What is cinema for you? Why do you want to write about cinema? Young critics from Peru and Chile, attending a workshop on film criticism organized at the occasion of the Lima Film Festival answer these questions in a sort of self-portrait.
There are only few things more powerful than cinema. Cinema has a huge capacity to work as an absolute and universal language, overcoming any geographic, chronological, political or cultural boundaries. Even though this can be said also for music, literature or visual arts, the beauty of cinema comes precisely from the fact that it is a sublime incorporation of these three expressions.
However, what fascinates me the most about the seventh art is its ability to establish communicating between the witness and the intangible, the invisible. By manifesting an everyday reality, but also by creating a parallel and unreal world, movies do not only generate a bond between human beings based on new learning and knowledge, but they also accomplish that the viewer connects with himself: with his nostalgias, his happiness, his values and his visions of the world in that moment. Through images and sounds which do not exist in any given environment, cinema gets us away from routine, turns on our curiosity and provokes our thoughts, 24 images per second.
Writing about cinema, for me, is like learning to ride a bike: there is no unique or right way to do it. This subjectivity is what attracts me to become a film critic, since it stimulates originality and continuous innovation. However, this is not about writing any given subject. Research is extremely important, which requires seeing films constantly and knowing its creators in depth, from the Lumière Brothers to the Coen Brothers. And I am fascinated by the idea of learning about the never ending film history — its trends and its revolutions — in order to create a convincing text.
Finally, writing about cinema allows me to have a voice in the world which passions me the most. The simple fact of attracting someone, through my words, to sit and watch a good movie, seems unconceivable to me. But it is the reality.
There are few things more powerful than cinema. Love, perhaps. But with the emotions cinema makes us feel, there is no reason not consider them as synonyms. Then why not saying it, if at the end it is the truth: cinema is love. And I love cinema. (Enrique Valdez)
Cinema is the most universal art of the world and it has been my passion since I have a memory. The ability of the director to transmit in an image not only a huge quantity of ideas but also emotions, is one of the possibilities which amazes me the most. Disentangling the structure of a movie in order to understand not only the vision of the creator but also the lives of others, portrayed in multiple places, situations and conflicts that we would never imagine, is like opening the door to another world, different to ours in its mechanics but not in its essence. In this way, the essence of cinema is as universal as the emotions and thus it overcomes all boundaries.
Personally, I am fascinated by this combination of elements which live in us a part of what we understand as living. A movie, then, becomes the depiction of a universe that appeals us and makes us curious to experience it.
I have always felt that my life is part of a great movie, in which I can even hear the soundtrack. If this is true, for me “writing about cinema” has become an almost natural step, the relief of satisfying the curiosity arisen by, for example, François Truffaut’s films when he portrays his characters; the incredible sensation that the first Nosferatu produces in me, who despite being mute and black and white is frightening; the series of long and short takes which compose the stories that compete with the most important movie of all, the history of our life.
I studied Communication Sciences at the University of Lima and I have worked in some movies. Nowadays I am elaborating a research on Peruvian cinema, which has been prolific throughout the last years. (Flor Preciado)
One of the reasons why I write and read about cinema is because it has the ability of taking us to imaginary worlds; it allows us to know places, things and people we have never seen. Cinema opens us a new universe. When being in front of the screen, we have the sensation that everything happening on it is happening to us. We anguish with the character, we laugh or cry, we live the most intense emotions, just as we do when we dream. Suddenly, when the movie ends, we feel we are others, we have another point of view, a different look of what surrounds us, we have learned something new.
The first time I went to the “movies” was at school. In that time, we had no theaters like now: we used to improvise a huge white sheet hanging in the wall and chairs from the classrooms served as seats. Children and adults ran to buy their tickets and find a good place. Since I was a kid I was fascinated with the big screen. Everything looked huge: the colors, the music and the shining of the screen made that moment magic. The movie I saw was called The Kid and the Dragon, an animation where both characters confront the enemy, they are hurt, they are away from their parents and finally they win and discover their friendship, despite their different conditions. During the show, everything was real: I could fly as the dragon just as the kid, or feel the heat of the fire thrown by the dragon. Since then, cinema has trapped me and motivated me to learn more about its mysteries.
One of the sources I discovered was a film section of a local newspaper called “The Mysterious Language”, where filmmaker Armando Robles Godoy made his analysis so passionately that I felt fascinated by each one of his publications.
At the University of San Marcos, where I studied art history, I took some courses on film history, cinematographic language, free courses of editing and a documentary workshop. There, in order to discover cinema from the inside, I made a short feature film with some friends, where I learned the whole process to make a movie, from the script to the projection. It was not an easy task, but I loved knowing more about acting, cinematography, makeup and how to blow up the fuse of the house. At the Cultural Centre of the Catholic University I took a course on film history with filmmaker Álvaro Velarde. With this experience, I published a lot of texts on cinema in the boards of my school, about film analysis and the conferences of the Lima Festival. Nowadays I write for a site, www.artecorpus.org, in which we will create a film section, where I expect the readers to hook with the film stories just as me when I was a kid. (Julisa Espinoza)
A picture is worth a thousand words. In cinema, we see 24 images per second. 24 times a thousand is 24,000. In general, a long feature film lasts a minimum of 70 minutes. 70 times 60, it is 4,200 seconds, 100,800 words. Let’s add the words from the dialogues of the actors. Of course, the words that arise in us also count. Here comes the complicated part: add up to the infinite.
Since cinema is a very influential entertainment medium, it is easy to send messages. Messages about love to mankind, nature, family, happiness, etc. messages about what is dangerous, fantastic, dramatic in life. Also about reality and the unknown, the desired. Cinema is like playing to be a little god: God creates, and good movie directors also do. They begin by managing the whole cinematographic production which allows them to create the world they want to show, and they finish with us. They expect to have the omnipotence to transmit the feeling, the idea, the reflection.
All cinematographic productions try to influence and impregnate our lives, and they dream to become, because of the simple fact of watching them, a lively experience rather than an ephemeral presentation. The true goal of a movie is not only that the viewer learns a moral or jumps off his seat because he is frightened. A good movie makes you being a kid, a blind man, a gangster, a dog, a pregnant woman, a fairy, feeling hate, love, suspense, happiness… A romantic movie, in which you might have felt enchanted by the couple relationship, will not accomplish its goal until you feel invited and needy of having such a passionate love as it was portrayed. A terror film is really good if, after watching it, we have to leave the light on during the night. A comic one, and a really good movie, is the one which teaches us that there is only one life, but it has different angles to see it. And a fantasy movie is really fantastic if we feel in our hearts that everything, everything is possible. (Ximena Esqueche)
I have just decided it: I am going to make a short film about my first encounter with cinema, that is to say, about the origin of my passion for movies. It is the best way, I think now, to explain this love, almost perversion, for watching movies: the ideal thing to do is to explain to cinema the reasons why I am one of its fans in its own language.
I will shoot the movie in some middle-class movie theater. The first scene will show — in medium shot — the back of a boy and a girl who see a big screen. The name of the movie seen by those kids (one of them plays the kid I was when I was nine) does not matter. It is enough to say that it is a Disney production. In fact, it is no big deal, but for those two children for a couple of hours, it is everything. They have discovered a new world coming out of the projector and impregnating in their eyes. I might play the sound of a soft piano in the back. Or perhaps nothing, only the silence. In another shot — first plan — we will see how four feet hang from two seats. He wears moccasins, she wears patent leather shoes.
That is the first memory I keep related to cinema. I cannot forget it. I think that, someway or the other, I have not left that theater. Until now, I keep sitting on that chair daily, as an addict who cannot stop receiving his dose of audiovisual fiction. Because watching movies is a total action, without stopovers. Either you see with passion and no rest and you learn about camera movements and the ways to generate emotions through sequences, shots, silences, sentences, music, tones. Or either you are only another viewer. Everyone chooses an option. You can always choose. I decided to be a movie eater: someone who is fed by cinema.
I am no longer attracted to Disney movies. With the years I have discovered that there are much more amazing films — Chungking Express by Wong Kar Wai or Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind by Michel Gondry. But I still keep watching movies as if I were a kid, as if a new and unknown world opened to my eyes. (Miguel Ángel Farfán)
François Truffaut asked himself if cinema mattered more than life. Jean Cocteau had the conviction that poetry (including cinema) was essential. Essential to what? He ignored it. How can you place art above life? Are these filmmakers superficial? Did they loose connection with the real world in favor of utopias they can control at their will? Or is it that cinema can recreate the real world in order to reveal aspects of the human condition that we simply couldn’t observe otherwise?
Societies have always been defined more by the way they communicate than by the content of that communication. That statement by Marshall McLuhan, in the same vein of his infamous “medium is the message”, gives some direction where to look at. Humans have changed very little for thousands of years. Telling stories through the spoken word has been for most of our history the way to preserve a memory of our traditions, ways of seeing, dreams and beliefs.
Cinema is a meta communication form. It’s about expressing a point of view through the depiction of human beings communicating on a plane, rectangular, light projection. The fact that it uses sound and most importantly time to achieve its goals makes it a very powerful medium. Although film making is regulated by strict industry formats, artists such as Guy Maddin or Peter Greenaway still manage to produce marginal yet innovative ways of communicating. When Carlos Reygadas holds his camera on a particular framing for a couple of minutes, his way of telling the story changes the meaning of what he is showing. He also finds a very simple way of confronting our accelerated, image-on-demand, trigger-happy society which asks for speed, satisfaction and immediacy for the individual. To compare it to the Bauhaus rule “form follows function”, here the director uses the form to signify.
Born in Montreal from a Peruvian mother and a Canadian father, I was raised in Lima and have been living in Montreal for the past 20 years. I sought the film culture of the Americas and Europe as well as the ideas and perspectives of André Bazin, François Truffaut, Claude Jutra, Pierre Perrault, Guy Maddin, Denys Arcand, Francisco Lombardi, Pierre Hebert, Jean Cocteau and Peter Greenaway.
Cinema is about the essence of life and of human condition, transmissioned through the oldest vehicle of human experience communication: telling stories. (Felix Faucher)