The Ann Arbor Film Festival creates an aesthetic of grungier, experimental cinema. In “Memories of Disintegration: Ibero-American Experimental Film,” a compilation of six short experimental films, the span of experimental film in foreign cinema is explored by six different Latin nations. The program was also sponsored by the University’s own Center for Latin American and Caribbean Studies as its education partner.
The program consisted of six films from six different hispanic countries: “Nighthouse” from Cuba, “Selva” from Costa Rica, “Aliens” from Spain, “The Thread” from Chile and Costa Rica, “Infancia Intervenida” from Argentina and “Familiar Tale” from Mexico. Each film varied in medium and length, from around three to 27 minutes. Image is captured in different ways, from Super 8, to 35mm, to VHS tapes, to home videos, to the use of film negatives and scrapbook photos. The filmmakers embrace the analog means of production of cinema’s past while rejecting the easy and fast filmmaking techniques of the current digital world.
Thematically, all the short films, in some capacity, deal with ideas of memory, identity and the self. The title is based on the famous Cuban 1968 docu-experimental film, “Memories of Underdevelopment” by Tomás Gutiérrez Alea, a film which explores Cuba’s catastrophic aftermath of the Socialist Revolution and the missile crisis that left the country with “underdeveloped” memories. “Memories of Disintegration” feeds off of its predecessor in diving into the Latin identity as a complex one, due to political instability in most of these Latin nations. All six films were made by young people, half of whom are women, all of them blending traditional documentary style narration with experimental formal techniques to convey these themes of complicated identity and existence.
Each film has a distinct element, whether it be visual or narrative, that rendered it as striking, though some were so abstract that clear narratives were hard to detect. However, “Aliens” by Luis López Carrasco and “Familiar Tale” by Sumie Garcia stuck out due to their visual and narrative elements being equally strong. “Aliens” highlights the life of Tesa Arranz, an artist and singer in the 1970s Spanish Band “The Zombies.” Arranz was a large figure in the Spanish “La Movida,” a Spanish countercultural movement that emerged after Franco’s death in 1975. Arranz’s narrates her own memories while flipping through hundreds of her own portraits of “aliens,” all the while laughing about her drug addiction and scandalous sexual past. Through her eccentric recounts, the film excels at portraying a period in Spanish history in which alienation, euphoria and terror all interacted.
In “Familiar Tale,” the subject Yukio Saeki, a Japanese man who emigrated to Mexico City after World War II, is torn between his Japanese-Mexican identity and a sense of belonging to neither nation. By using Saeki’s personal photos and relying on this physical medium, these questions of identity are framed by his frustration of being a once-successful analog camera store owner in Mexico who is now confronted with digital photography, rapid technological progress and the changing world around him.
These filmmakers come from superlative Latin film schools which demonstrates the value of the tradition of Latin cinema and history. It is important to note that in the past five ceremonies, four of five Oscar winners for best director have been Latin (the holy trinity: Guillermo del Toro, Alejandro Iñárritu and Alfonso Cuarón). These Latin countries continue to produce budding visionary filmmakers who perpetually push cinematic boundaries and honor their roots.