Until the Day the Conflict Is Over and Everything Transfers to Memory
Q: I hear that 1960s Columbia was just when the armed conflict was escalating. Tell us about this era when you started filmmaking.
MR: After studying anthropology and filmmaking in France, I returned to my country in 1965. At that time in Columbia, large landowners who operated huge farms were controlling and taking advantage of the peasants. I first met the family you see in The Brickmakers when I was traveling around the regions. There was the father, mother, and eleven children. At the time the thinking went: the more children in the family, the more hands to carry bricks. In the beginning I went without a camera, but gradually we developed a trust and friendship through my repeated visits. It was only then I asked them if I could film them and their situation.
Q: Both films depict a harsh reality, but at the same time are striking for the beauty of the images. The drama elements in Our Voice of Earth, Memory and Future were also very enticing. Tell us about the ideas behind your method of directing?
MR: I wanted to introduce some kind of magic that exists, in spite of a world where violence controls all. In the midst of adversity and solitude, there is bright light and happiness. A girl who is normally dressed in rags walks the village in a pure white dress (The Brickmakers)—I wanted to show that these children have the right to wear pretty clothes, that there is also beauty and joy during hardship. The “devil” with the frightening mask (Our Voice of Earth, Memory and Future) was based on an Andes myth that the indigenous people told me about. Friends in Cali helped me make the mask and the choreography. Thanks to their support, I was able to complete the film despite the difficult situation.
Q: You are still in touch with the brickmaker’s family and the indigenous folk?
MR: We outsiders came into their communities to film, and their lives changed. So in exchange for being allowed to film them, we try to help when they get ill or have problems. That kind of co-supportive relationship is ongoing to this day. Sometimes there are tragic events. In the case of the brickmaker’s family, one child died in the guerilla warfare that intensified, and one child died of a lung disease caused by the brickmaking work. The guerillas came also to Cauca, where the indigenous people are, and introduced arms and drugs. It is an unbearable situation for the locals. It’s only nowadays that the government and guerillas are starting to dialogue towards a peace agreement.
Q: We are grateful that you came to Japan on this occasion, despite your 80-plus age. What is your most urgent message to the world now?
MR: The many landmines that the guerillas have left buried are killing children. It is the children who suffer the most in war. I make films, more than anything else, for the children. There’s a movement to salvage the memories of the history of this war that raged continuously for 50–60 years. It’s about archiving all records possible about the indigenous peoples, farmers, and migrants, in order to remember them. So many very dear people have passed away. The loss is immense and we are left with just misery and poverty. We need to end that era and transfer everything to memory. I wish, more than anything else, for peace to come.
(Compiled by Numazawa Zenichiro)
Interviewers: Numazawa Zenichiro, Kimuro Shiho / Interpreter: Hoshino Yayoi / Translator: Fujioka Asako
Photography: Kat Simpson / Video: Uno Yukiko / 2015-10-13