by Buzz Alexander
Cut, no. 28, April 1983, pp. 27-30
Pancho Adrienzén is a Peruvian free-lance photographer, film critic for the prominent leftist weekly Marka, and co-editor of the film magazine, Cinematógrafo. He has made videotapes on the history of Peruvian working class struggle and on the fifth national congress of the Peasant Confederation of Peru in 1978. His films include two shorts which have been shown nationally. One is CORREO CENTRAL (CENTRAL POST OFFICE). It is a film about the importance of correspondence as a form of communication, in which a hidden camera observes tourists, peasants, students and others in the post office. Letters by Rosa Luxemburg, Antonio Gramsci, and Simon Bolivar are part of the commentary. His other film is DANIEL CARRION, about a Peruvian doctor who discovered the inoculation for smallpox.
The interview here is a composite of two meetings, carried out on two occasions in 1979 — in May by Buzz Alexander and in December by Chuck Kleinhans and Julia Lesage. Buzz transcribed, translated, and edited this combined interview, in consultation with Chuck and Julia.
NOTE ON PERU IN THE 1970s
In October 1968, President Fernando Belaúnde Terry was ousted in a military coup and succeeded by General Juan Velasco Alvarado. Velasco's government was one of contradictions. It combined nationalizations; recognition of Cuba; agrarian, educational, and labor reform; Third Worldist rhetoric and behavior; repression of the working class; and imposition of an enormous foreign debt which led the country into a severe recession. The left was split by these contradictions, with the Peruvian Communist Party and other elements supporting the regime while others vehemently opposed it. In August 1975, General Francisco Morales Bermúdez replaced Velasco and led the country rightward. By 1977 the country had entered a depression and was subjected to "stabilization" measures by the International Monetary Fund: devaluation of the sol, a high rate of inflation, and harsh restriction of wage increases. The period was marked by growing labor militancy, including general strikes in 1978 and 1979; by the election of a constitutional assembly in 1978; and finally by new elections in 1980, with Belaúnde returning to power. The left parties united temporarily, but tragically and irresponsibly they split just before the elections, and so fared very poorly.
JUMP CUT: Describe the formation of your group.
Pancho Adrienzén: We came together to project films. In 1970 repression in the universities was very severe. The only way for students to organize politically was through clubs where they could link cultural and political work: film clubs, theater clubs, song clubs, and so on. Through the film clubs we could help students grow in their political consciousness by showing Cuban, Chinese, and Soviet films. But we always intended that our work reach beyond the university. From the beginning we showed films three or four times a week in unions and barriadas (poor communities circling Lima). We never exhibited films just for the love of films but clearly understood the political usefulness of such work.
Our film exhibition project originally started out from a mass-based, neighborhood, organizing project in a barriada. Showing films let us get people together and carry out activities that would keep people thinking of themselves as active social agents. The project let us, as a group, work collectively. The films chosen served to highlight various social problems, show other countries’ realities, and demonstrate — in a small but very important way — that there is another kind of cinema. People also have to learn to look at commercial film with other eyes.
What was the political stance of your group?
Our vision of the world was Marxist, but we had members from different political groups. We never privileged any international line or position. We were in reality a broad political front. For all of us the fundamental factor was that the epoch of President Velasco was a reformist epoch: there would be no basic structural changes. Our effort was to help citizens of the barriadas and workers to organize independently and not succumb to the reformist propaganda of the government. It was this effort that united us and motivated us to work, and it is an effort we have been carrying out for almost ten years now. We want to use film as a weapon, as a way to forge independent, popular organizing and peoples coming to consciousness. Two films which we have distributed a lot come closest to our way of thinking: Eisenstein's OCTOBER and a Cuban film by Manuel-Octavio Gomez about the literacy campaign, HISTORIA DE UNA BATALLA. The work in the university above all helped us to form a core group of politically committed, technically competent people.
Have you changed your strategies over the years?
Yes. In the beginning it was rather dispersed work, based on individual initiative and good will. After a while we became more organized, forming a group which took on responsibilities that obligated each of us to commit ourselves to the plan of work. We had weekly meetings where we discussed the political side of what had gone on, evaluated our activities, and planned new projects. Sometimes we even met two or three times a week — almost continuously. Many of us also became interested in aspects of production, in taking photographs and trying some filming.
There was another development. At first a union would invite us to show a film for its anniversary or because it needed to raise funds or for some other reason. But we soon became dissatisfied with this process. We would show a film, a lot of people would come, there would be a political discussion about film, then people would go home. There was no follow through. And the unions did not get a lot of support because the whole thing was very sporadic and did not lead to any constant progression in the political consciousness of the working class. So we decided that every time a union invited us, we would commit them to a cycle of four or six films, shown in the same location and with a certain political rationale. For example, we could project a series on countries that had suffered repression, or countries that had struggled for liberation: Vietnam, China, Cuba, and the Soviet Union. We also learned from this experience to apply the same policy in the barriadas.
We learned at the same time to hold preliminary discussions with union and community leaders, so that they would understand the importance of each film. Thus, they were the ones who always presented the films and led the discussions. This is how we collaborated in the organizing of unions. From 1970 to 1973-1974, a great number of unions were formed in Peru, class-conscious unions. With these film projections we assisted in organizing those unions.
Did you work with any particular political organization?
We have worked with all the political organizations on the left: organizations opposed to right parties such as APRA and Acción Popular or SINAMOS (Sistema Nacional de Apoyo á la Movilización Social — the government's branch intended to organize peasant collectives and other local units). And we have refused to work in places where left organizations were in conflict. We were once asked to show a film in a place where two groups were contending for control in very competitive, partisan terms, with a political line very distanced from popular reality and not thinking of what was best for the people at all. So, we did not go. Our purpose is to support the development of leftist organizations in sectors where there is class-consciousness of a struggle against the organizations of the right and of the government.
Were there differences in your work in the unions and in the barriadas?
Yes, we showed different kinds of films and varied the manner of presentation. A very political, very revolutionary film, like Eisenstein's OCTOBER, had impressive success in the unions. I recall that during times of conflict, of miners' strikes, people responded to OCTOBER as if it showed them the road. Such showings really made a great impression on me. They were euphoric. People would come out like … Well, if a soldier or a police car had passed by just then, they could have burned it! But films like OCTOBER, which implied a certain political development in the viewer, would not produce the same effect in barriadas or peasant communities. So for them we turned to films with mainly social content, like Buñuel's LOS OLVIDADOS. We would take films borrowed from embassies, the French or Czech embassy, for example. Or Cuban films, like Tomás Gutierrez Alea's THE TWELVE CHAIRS, not political, but rich in social content. We used Chaplin often. His films permit a lot of social commentary and attract a large crowd. We'd begin with such films in a series and end with others that elicited — a more strictly political discussion.
Describe if you can a discussion resulting from one of these showings. How would people discuss a Chaplin film?
We'd often begin with comparisons. Compare, for example, the Chaplin film with contemporary feature films or television soap operas. Different kinds of plots favor different kinds of characterizations. In many of his films Charlie Chaplin plays a vagabond, a poor person, or someone dominated by others — but his films also have a message of hopefulness. We want people to be able to criticize mainstream cinema so as to create a public for alternative, political cinema.
Sometimes we work through churches, who have the projection apparatus and the locations, and who let organized groups, clubs, and associations run the meetings.
Does the church support the left?
Institutionally, not so much, but pastors feel they have to. The state clearly acts in a hostile way towards ordinary people, and the pastor either has to be on the side of the state or on the side of the people. Sometimes we block off a street to show a film, sometimes we put up a screen after mass and the people stay after church. The churches have also been very advanced in preparing filmstrips with cassette tapes and so have exhibition facilities for those.
What kinds of repression have you faced and how have you dealt with it?
Well, we advertise these as cultural events, run by a local organization. Right-wing parties and many religious groups have cultural events in the barriadas, too. By working with established political groups, we have had minimal public visibility, both personally and organizationally. This gave us a lot of security, and gave our equipment and films protection too. And if we would go into an area like the sierra, where there was a miner's strike, and therefore severe police repression — including the thorough searching of cars between cities or on the one road leading into town — we would travel separately from the films and projector. But while we were going to exhibit films to fishermen in the big national fishing industry strike, the police confiscated one of our three projectors and before returning it, took off an arm, which we have never been able to replace. For that reason, we will never travel with a projector again, only with films. And for other reasons, too, we have decided to center our activities in Lima and not disperse ourselves. For a while I was projecting films almost every day, often in two different places each Saturday and Sunday. It caught up with me, and we can't let activism damage us like that.
Really our film showings have always been political, not aesthetic, events. We show films to bring out issues, to increase leftist understanding, for example, of workers in the middle of a unionizing drive. Our film showings give support to the leftists working within the union. The film and the discussion after it increase rank and file consciousness about left politics or a left political analysis. This is one of the reasons why we always have a preview screening and a mini-discussion beforehand with the group’s leaders and then have that group present the film to its own people — a double process of cinematic and political education.
Our main political goal is to increase political awareness and class-consciousness among ordinary people. It is only education and pressure from the base that will force unity on the left and keep the left parties from just fighting among themselves. When there was a Constitutional Assembly, the over thirty left parties that have sprung up since the Velasco era did not consult with their popular base on proposals for the Constitution, not even with the base of their own party. The left parties were heavily criticized by the masses for that, and many of them seem to be responding more to the people's demands.
One of our members belonged to a left party. But when he went around projecting films to every workers' organization and left-organized community project in Lima, he saw the limits of his own group. Economic changes in Peru have been so drastic, and left parties have been so backward in keeping up with these changes, that just opening your eyes and talking constantly to people is an important step. It lets you get information and see what the situation is. This is why our group has always basically been a communications group.
In the barriadas, how many would come for the projections and how many would remain for the discussions?
We average 150 to 200 persons, because in the barriada people love film, and because the films we show are very cheap, five to ten cents. Sometimes we don't charge. When we do charge, it's just enough to pay for our taxi or for someone to carry the projector, and to have a little fund to buy a new bulb for the projector and so on. We get some support from friends to repair the films and help with costs. This does not help us get ahead with our own film work, but our purpose is to take the films to people at an affordable rate.
About half the crowd will stay on for the discussion. Usually a very small percentage of the people speak. You find the same fear as in the university cinema clubs, the fear of not being a cinema specialist and therefore not knowing enough to contribute. Where there is broad political development in a zone, then there is greater participation, because people see the connection of the film to their collective work.
Sometimes, people don't meet our expectations in reacting to a film. We showed LUCIA (Humberto Solás, Cuba 1968) quite a bit in 1972 and 1973. We expected people to like the third episode best, but they liked the second, because there was more action. Regrettably, many of them would praise the husband for dominating his wife in the third episode. With MANUELA (Solás, 1966) they would be enamored of the action and romance and little more.
In the unions, it was different. Participation was much greater, because the workers have political preoccupations and well-formed opinions. And they would focus on class struggle itself, the nature of armed struggle, say, in LUCIA and MANUELA. Projecting films at their political meetings usually results in their taking up distinct positions in the discussion afterward. Their debate is much richer.
THE POLITICS OF FILMMAKING IN PERU
You told us earlier that in 1975 there was a conjunction of very favorable factors for the film movement in Peru. Could you tell us about that period?
Yes, I'll need to give you a little background first on the Film Law and censorship. Peruvian cinema as it is now began with the Film Law in the early months of 1973. We had film before that, but no support for it. You could not produce shorts, because there was no place they could be exhibited. The new law stimulated the production of a great quantity of shorts [by means of a tax rebate — trans. note]. But there is a problem. Look at the films from the first year after the law. They are of three types. There are auteur films, like those of Robles Godoy, and films to make money, including industrial films. Then there’s EL CARGADOR/ THE PORTER, about a foot-carrier of heavy loads in the Andes. This documentary study by Lucho Figueroa is a film with a certain social interest, showing Peruvian reality. The vast majority of the shorts then and since have been of the second type.
The problem for filmmakers like Figueroa was and is censorship. Censorship occurs in two stages in Peru. First the films are qualified for adults or minors. The films then go to the Commission for Promotion of Film (COPROCI) to receive authorization to exhibit, another form of censorship. If a film passes the first censorship, but is denied authorization for theater exhibition, it can still be shown in film clubs, unions, and schools. Nora de Izcue's RUNAN CAYCU, for instance, a film about peasant struggles leading up to The Agrarian Reform Law of 1969, did not pass the first stage and so cannot be shown publicly under any circumstances. Ñawi (Eye) Cinematic Production's EL FOTÓGRAFO DEL PARQUE/ PARK PHOTOGRAPHER is a documentary film on the itinerant salespeople, the food sellers, beggars, and so on, who make up the reality of University Park in Lima. It was passed at the first stage but not at the second (until two years later).
So producers become frightened. They don't want to invest in films with social themes. In spite of this, some filmmakers still insisted on making films about social problems, but they were censored or denied the right to exhibit. Examples are Izcue’s RUNAN CAYCU; Fico Garcia's HUANDO, a film about a strike by workers at the Hacienda "Huando"; and TIERRA SIN PATRONES/ LAND WITHOUT LANDLORDS, a film documenting peasant struggles up to the Agrarian Reform Law of 1969. Other censored works include the group Liberación sin Rodeos' (Liberation without Detours') UNA PELICULA SOBRE JAVIER HERAUD / A FILM ABOUT JAVIER HERAUD, on the Peruvian poet-guerrilla killed in 1963); and NIÑOS CUSCO/ CHILDREN OF CUSCO, a film about Andean peasant children.
This situation, which began in 1973, had certain consequences in the ideological and political terrain. Film people began to organize to protest against the outrages of the state, against the censors, and against COPROCI. The workers organized to combat the film companies; in 1974 they formed the Union of Film Industry Workers (SITEIC). At the same time, the workers in distribution and exhibition formed the Federation of Film Workers (FETCINE). Simultaneously came the famous transference of the newspapers from private and wealthy owners to the government, in July of 1974. Those of us who wrote for the film magazines Hablemos de cine and Cinematógrafo went to work as critics for the newspapers. We had access to a medium that before had been closed. This access, together with the organization of the film workers and their conflict with the government and the industry, permitted us to open a wide debate about Peruvian cinema. This debate lasted throughout 1975 and into the early months of 1976. Its fundamental issue was how to give political content to Peruvian film.
What kind of problems did people in production have?
A fundamental problem was that their films were not approved by COPROCI. They could not make the films they wanted to. Then there were labor problems for those working for companies: low salaries, sporadic and infrequent working hours, no right to work, no life security, and so on. People working in distribution and exhibition are still very exploited. They do not have stable work, and the government refuses to recognize their union.
The various production workers, the critics, and the actors' union reached the point of uniting in a Front for the Defense of the National Cinema. This Front entered into a lengthy discussion over how to take up the struggle for a national cinema, a cine popular, a cinema which expressed the interests of the majority. This discussion had a basic political and ideological purpose, the defense of freedom of expression.
It sounds good, but we in the Front had problems and committed serious errors. For instance, there was infighting between groups of different tendencies in the Front, and we failed to arrive at a correct political direction. We identified two fundamental enemies: North American business with its control of the film market; and the state, which being capitalistic and bourgeois defends its interests through a castrating censorship which cuts off all initiative and development.
If we understand correctly, this is part of a general national situation. The state subsidizes multinational companies and makes it very difficult for native industry to develop on its own. It’s a situation which creates unemployment and underemployment at many levels.
Yes, it is the same. Our problem was that we had identified the enemies to strike, but we had no consensus on whom to strike first. A related problem was that we did not agree on our orientation. The film critics thought we needed to develop an ideology for the movement before further developing its politicization, although that should be happening simultaneously as well. Others believed the opposite, and for them it was most important to attack North American imperialism directly through the multinational companies. In addition, the movement did not actually advance much beyond pure initial emotion, an emotion without perspective, on the struggle.
But there was a strike at this time, wasn't there?
Yes, we carried out various actions. The FETCINE people had strikes, which received a decent amount of support. Juan Bullita and I published two sections in our Sunday page in the Correo. One contained authentic Marxist film criticism plus commentary and news. In the other we addressed problems in the cinema movement. We published the communications of the unions and federations. We reported their struggles with the censors. This we did from July of 1974 until November or December of 1975. There were also projections of films, discussions of a political and ideological type, and marches and demonstrations by film people.
No. We lacked production for various reasons. First, film people's political and ideological development was very weak, and continues to be very weak. Second, in the vacuum of opportunity for our development, we had few technical groups capable of producing political films. Those who intended to make political film lacked resources and equipment. Third, the left faced a series of discrepancies. The Revolutionary Vanguard and the Revolutionary Communist Party, for example, did not agree at all. Red Fatherland could not agree with the Revolutionary Left Movement. As a result of this very marked sectarianism, the few people in film who wished to make political film found little consistent support. It was difficult to form crews. There were some experiences in super-8, but very limited work at the bases, for one or another union. SITEIC turned out one number of a newsreel, but that was all.
There were a few films. Nora de Izcue made RUNAN CAYCU (in 1973, but the battle over whether it should be exhibited lasted into 1974-1975). Liberación sin Rodeos made a film on Javier Heraud, the guerrilla poet, an honest but sentimental film without a real leftist point of view. The group Liberación sin Rodeos tried to make other films, including an interesting project on black slaves in Peru in the nineteenth century, but did not finish them. Then there was Bruma Films, a group of Chileans and Peruvians who came from Chile after the coup in 1973. They had a good amount of political maturity and clarity. They made a rather important film, TEATRO EN LA CALLE/ STREET THEATER in 1974 about the street theater actor Jorge Acuña in Lima, and a film called VIA PÚBLICA, about the itinerant salespeople of Lima. They also made two other shorts, EN CADENAS/ MY CHAINS about a barriada, and NECESITA MUCHACHA/ MAID NEEDED about domestic employees.
So there wasn't much political production. And this limited our discussion. It was also limited by the fact that we were mainly fighting for democratic conditions within the system's structure of production, and we were not planning alternate cinema at the system's margins.
Why this last limitation?
The main reason was the filmmakers' ideological weakness. The majority of FETCINE who wanted to make films did not want to make a political commitment. So they might think of films that were slightly radical, but within the system. In short, they were not militants.
So what happened to the movement of 1974-1975?
Because of the debate over whom to strike first, because of the uncertainty whether to start with the ideological or political, and because of the lack of accord between various sectors, including the industry and critics, the government was able to carry out a very effective maneuver in 1975. It created a commission to compose a new general law for the film industry, for production, distribution, exhibition, cinema clubs, everything to do with film. It sent out a call to distributors, producers, workers, actors, and critics to help plan the law. It tricked us: the endeavor immobilized us. All of our forces were channeled into this new law. We met every afternoon four or five times a week for six months, piled up papers full of projects, and all for a law that never saw the light of day, that the government never intended to enact.
At the same time, the union entered into a political struggle against the company owners at a time when the union's forces were insufficient. It went on strike and its members were fired. It also fought legally, with a grievance to the Ministry of Labor, and it lost there too. The government first recognized the union, then decided not to recognize it. Part of the problem was that the union lacked clear political and ideological preparation. There was too much infighting, and it is said that Revolutionary Vanguard used the union for its own political ends. The result was that the union entered a period of political crisis and dissolved.
The critics also had contradictions that we still haven't resolved. These contradictions made it difficult for us to deal with the increasingly tougher newspaper censorship, in 1976, under the more rightist government of General Morales. All of this added up, and the film movement failed. Most filmmakers now do not want anything to do with the word union, because of the failure of this movement.
But for a year now there has been an Association of Filmmakers. We realize that it also was organized by the government, by COPROCI.
Yes, another trick, partly intended to be divisive. The original union included film workers of all kinds, including independent workers, who work part time or work by contract for small companies. Most of the workers in the industry are independent workers. But there are also those called the filmmakers: the qualified technicians, the directors, the producers, in other words the petite bourgeoisie, well paid and considered above the workers. Government functionaries utilized this division, wooing the better-paid group with promises of greater production liberties and better exhibition possibilities.
This brings us to July 1977, when COPROCI organized a seminar of filmmakers, not workers, to evaluate Peruvian Cinema and to present a series of proposals for new laws to the government. Somewhat wiser this time, a group of left filmmakers, and critics used the seminar for our own purposes. We prepared our own proposals. For example, in the area of censorship, we proposed that films from all countries be allowed to enter Peru, that COPROCI not be a censorship body composed of technicians and functionaries of the state, that it not have representatives from the armed forces, that it have representatives from among the critics and film people. The entire series of proposals had to do with democratic liberties. It was well planned, very well organized, and our proposals carried the day. We also got an agreement among the participants that the government had to respond in sixty days to our accords. This was all very fine. But in fact the government complied with none of our proposals. The only one they complied with, aside from a minor concession, was creation of the Association of Filmmakers.
And what kind of body is the Association? Do you belong?
No, I do not belong. It exists under the government. The people who did form it have hopes that it will help build the Peruvian film industry. For them, that means collaborating with COPROCI and avoiding political and ideological discussion. They think that if they develop the industry, then they will be able to make more progressive films.
I believe this is the government's game to demobilize film people, stifle their politicization, and stop them from even beginning to make films with progressive content. Films now are technically very professional, yet they have no analysis of reality, representation of contradictions. Most of our filmmakers are turning their backs on their country. The Association perspective is mistaken. It means no ample debate over the possibilities and realities of Peruvian cinema. For two years now — since the seminar — no one has wanted to discuss anything about Peruvian cinema. If the Association's notions prevail, they will always think political cinema lies somewhere in the future. Yet political knowledge can only come through struggle.
In making films that reach the theaters for two, three, four years, when the time comes to make political films about Peruvian reality, they will not know how to do it.
Right! Last year, 1978, was a year never seen before in the history of Peru, rich in popular struggles: the strike by SUTEP (the national teachers' union), strikes by the miners, national campaigns for the Constitutional Assembly, the land seizures. And the filmmakers were not present. A few of us were there, but we lack the experience of those who have worked more consistently in film, and we do not have their economic resources.
A POLITICAL FILMMAKING PROJECT
What can you tell us about the film your friends are working on now?
It records the struggles of a barriada here in Lima, its effort to gain political recognition and to prevent SINAMOS from interfering in its affairs. The barriada was formed in 1974, and at the end of 1977 the residents undertook a redistribution of the zone. Let me explain. When land is first invaded on the outskirts of a city, everyone grabs their own piece of land. Afterwards, when everything is more or less organized, then the space becomes redistributed and shared according to the necessities of each person. This took place in 1977 independently of the government, through the people's good will. A friend who works and lives in that barriada contacted a friend of mine, and he went out to film the redistribution, because the people wanted a record of how it was actually done. So, without any greater perspective, he shot a little over a half hour, on how they organized the houses, how they live, and a few other things like a small police tank arriving to obstruct their work, some marches in the zone. But he had no precise idea of what to do with the material. He financed this half-hour with the aid of friends who gave him some outdated film still in good condition. And he had, as is always the case, the backing of friends, film technicians who could give him access to labs and equipment, and so on. After the filming, a German group that had come to Peru contributed some money, so my friend and his collaborators were able to make a positive answer print.
The next step was to show their material to the people of the barriada. They wanted the residents' opinions, wanted to know from them what to do with the material. They cut out the bad shots, put a certain order to it, and made a more or less parallel sound track on cassette tape. They projected it twice, first for the community leaders, about fifty people, and then for the entire community. Technically, the material is not very good; they did not have light meters, used hand-held camera, and so on. But this was not important to the audience. The film made a strong impression on them, not only because of their excitement at seeing themselves on film, but also because they saw a segment of their struggle. With high participation and after considerable discussion, they asked from the filmmakers a history of that barriada from start to present.
So they went forward, interviewing different sectors of the population on how they organized to take the land. There is one twelve-minute interview with a family who were involved in a confrontation with the police. My friend also filmed more material on living conditions in the zone, more interviews on present conditions and problems.
Significantly, in this struggle, the entire population participated and it was a big battle — with people wounded, kidnapped, and killed.
What do they show of the struggle? How will they show it?
They were able to get photographs of a moment of the struggle, of one very important struggle in particular, where during a strike three people, including two children, were killed in a confrontation with the navy.
How are they going to render the struggle politically?
Politically, there are a number of factors. First, they make it clear in the film that this barriada is typical; they show that the same conditions exist elsewhere in Peru. Second, they examine a particular popular movement, which is exemplary and inspiring. Third, they consider it important that the people who carried out the struggle have seen the film and contributed to its form and content. Fourth, they show the state's economic and political interest in having people continue to live under these conditions and in insuring that barriadas do not organize independently from the state, from SINAMOS. This is one of the few peasant-migration barriadas which won its battle against SINAMOS, which got construction money on its own terms. And, fifth, in opposition to the state, they show the break from SINAMOS; they show the importance of the barriada's being organized independently and acting together to choose its own destiny. This is more or less the film's central idea.
What stage is the film at now?
They have about two hundred feet more to film, some details, another interview or so, and then the editing. They have sufficient financing now to finish the film in the next half year. They are experiencing a little difficulty in the barriada itself. As a result of the killings, the people have withdrawn a little, and it has a new directorship. But they do not expect this to hinder them much. In addition to the remaining filming, they feel they need to undertake some self-criticism, both to improve their editing of this film and for the sake of future projects.
What do you anticipate will come out in the self-criticism?
For one thing, although two of them worked on the project with the support of many others, they failed to put together a film crew which worked consistently on this film and would be ready to make more films in the future. Also, they meant to have a more collective process in making the film, but isolated themselves from people at the base. They did consult with the residents about the general direction of the film, but did not work closely with them; the filmmakers did not share the film and therefore the people did not participate fully enough. The fault lies partly in failure to consolidate a crew, partly in economic problems. My friend, for one, could not afford to work on the film all the time that was necessary. Being aware of this error, they will now consult with the people before beginning to edit, so the people can make suggestions for improvement.
They face a third and related error. As a small group of filmmakers, they failed to carry on political work in the barriada. They came and went; they discussed the film in a limited sense, but were not a permanent presence in the zone. If the filmmakers had at least been sharing the film more, if the people had participated in its elaboration, then the people would have been developing politically.
This last reminds us of the criticism that progressives in the sierra make of anthropologists. The anthropologists come to observe and write about the peasants, even with sympathy and good intentions, but come and then go. They give nothing, and they do not participate in an effort to develop political consciousness, both their own and that of the peasants. In the worst of cases it is exploitative. In the best, as with your friend's work, people genuinely intend political engagement. The product of your friend's presence clearly will aid this and other communities.
Yes, one of the most important things to come out of that work will be the lessons that they can share with other filmmakers.
Aside from your work in video, what other projects do you have?
We are planning small studio workshops for the production of slides. In our film projection work, we have recognized a great limitation. The foreign films we show often reflect realities very different from ours and thus unimportant to us, although a few, like Sanjinés' BLOOD OF THE CONDOR, almost exactly parallel Peruvian life. So we are trying to organize these studios with other filmmakers and technicians and with groups in the barriadas. Once the studios exist, social and political organizations will be able to take photographs of their own reality and then project those slides for discussions and debates. The project is economically feasible and can lead to greater popular enthusiasm and participation.
I don't know if you understand what kinds of economic limits we work under. I told you our exhibition group has three projectors, one broken by the police. Of those, I got one by trading a horse for it! Another someone “liberated” for us. The other was also a present, but it had only a motor and no lens, nor bulb. We had to rebuild it completely.
We have had to establish a network of technical and industrial assistance, such as finding ways to do lab work very cheaply. One of our members is very good at electronics and can build a slide projector which can run off batteries. All he needs is the lens to start with. We do slide shows with black and white, 35m positive slides. When we and other militant Latin American filmmakers go to a film festival such as those in Cuba, we are not looking for worldwide distribution. We just need enough sales to recuperate our costs and to go on. The Peruvian government strongly censors all militant film. And it is not interested in protecting and encouraging filmmaking in general, much less distributing 16mm films.
Do you and your collaborators plan to help the people of the unions, barriadas, and peasant communities use photographic equipment to make their own videotapes, or super-8 films? We realize this is difficult, given the costs and lack of resources here, but as you know, it has been done elsewhere.
Look, for the moment, for personal reasons, I can't plan much of that. I have to finish my video projects first of all. I'm paid for much of my video wok. That and the writing and photographing for magazines keep me going. But, yes, we are thinking of involving workers in making videotapes, in planning and scripting and the whole process. This is a concrete project, but separate from my present work in video. In film the fundamental thing is to push the ideas of Cinematógrafo, to get a debate going in the film movement.
Let me say just a few words about the group who published Cinematógrafo.
We meant to make films, films arising out of political and ideological discussions about film and about Peruvian reality. But we could not make them, mainly because of economic conditions. Out of a group of about fifteen people, five of us participated the most in discussions and reached a certain level of unity. We five put out the magazine and began to play a very active role in the film movement of 1974-1976, which we discussed earlier. The central preoccupation of Cinematógrafo is the problem of what a national cinema is. In Number 4, we intend to have a long theoretical article on this problem, resulting from an internal editorial seminar which went on for six or eight intensive meetings and which we taped. We discussed national cinema from political, cultural, economic, social, and cinematic points of view. Since 1975 there has been no insistent debate and no public discussion on national, political cinema, and this is very damaging. We wish to pick up the impulse of 1975, to stimulate a great debate and promote a new cinematic movement in this country.