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Manifestações Artísticas / 30/04/2021


Historical women of Bolivian cinema that you should know

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Historical women of Bolivian cinema that you should know

Sebastiana Kespi

When we speak of Bolivian cinema, the first names that come to mind are those of directors, young or old, who historically dominated all the billboards. Then the question arises: in almost one hundred years of cinema history in Bolivia, are the women?

In the literature on cinema, among hundreds of films compiled by different authors, the directors do not exceed twenty.

In the book Historia del cine Boliviano (1897-2017), among the two hundred feature film titles, only the names of 12 women are read in the direction. Four of them appear under the figure of «codirection», together with male colleagues.

In the digital world, the Bolivia Cine platform offers a catalog with fifty titles. Among them, only seven feature films (between fiction and documentary) are directed by women.

Of course, this absence of directors has nothing to do with the authors of these studies or with the national streaming platform. The problem is the structural machismo of the field and artistic activities in general.

Before continuing, if you did not see it, we recently published a ion of Bolivian illustrators that you will surely be interested in reviewing after this note.

Women generally do not occupy positions in the main creative and directing areas in local filmmaking processes. Your participation is important in the continuity, production, makeup or costumes.

At least that is what happened during the second half of the 20th century. In the XXI, the participation of women has increased, but there are still invisible, macho and patriarchal “limits” that have not yet been broken.

In 1989, the communicator and videographer Raquel Romero already said that “it was very difficult to move to the realization that, in general, is very macho, pyramidal, vertical, military, in the form of organization (…) The cameramen wanted to direct ! "

But that is the story of the women who had the means and resources (economic, social and cultural) to enter the world of cinema. On the other side of the screen are other protagonists of the seventh art in Bolivia. Also forgotten and invisible.

As the researcher Isabel Seguí points out in Cinema According to Mining Housewives: Subaltern Agenda, Performance and Political Communication, there are also women who stand in front of the screens.

This is the case of mining housewives. Due to their public union activity and their grassroots political training, Domitila Barrios and other leaders manage to upset a victimizing and subalternized representation of themselves, to become co-authors of the films in which they participated.

The same did not happen with other protagonists of the cinema who were filmed an urban and paternalistic lens, who tried to approach and tell the stories of indigenous people. However, his presence on the big screen and his stellar participation also mark a disruption in the colonial logic of the first decades of Bolivian cinema.

Beatriz Palacios

Despite the fact that he is one of the most recognized names in Bolivian cinema, the magnitude of his contribution and his figure within one of the most important historical periods of our cinematography is still not fully known.

According to researcher Adriana Montenegro, Beatriz was not only one of the most important links in the Ukamau Group. She also participated in the founding of the New Bolivian Cinema and Video Movement, the Superior Council of the New Latin American Cinema Foundation and the Committee of Latin American Filmmakers.

In addition, she served as the representative of Bolivia before the International School of Film and Television of San Antonio de los Baños, was the founder and director of the Andean School of Cinematography, and also served as an advisor to the Federation of Peasant Women of Bolivia.

Beatriz, along with Liliana de la Quintana and Raquel Romero, co-directed The Mining Woman and the Organization. She also shared the direction of Las Banderas del Dawn, along with Jorge Sanjinés.

She was also a brilliant chronicler. Part of her writings are collected in the collection Los Días rabioso, edited by the now defunct publishing house Gente Común.

Montenegro writes that Beatriz had at least three other audiovisual projects. In addition to the script for a feature film that in 2022 won the National Film Council award: Tierra sin mal.

A year later, in 2003, unfortunately, Beatriz passed away without being able to specify her own works.

“Not only do I make films because it is a vital instrument in the task of thinking and rethinking ourselves, but because I like it, because I am fascinated by the magic of cinema, the possibility of capturing fleeting life, of fixing, almost always, moments of beauty, of emotion, of human or social or historical significance "

Beatriz Palacios

Benedicta Huanca

It is believed thate was born in Huanuni or its surroundings. He was the protagonist of three fundamental works for the history of Bolivian cinema: the short film Aysa, Ukamau and Yawar Mallku.

Little is known about her and there are not many approaches to her figure.

Benedicta's contribution to the work of Jorge Sanjinés is generally invisible. Moreover, in a review of the Wikipedia entry on Bolivian cinema, with reference to the three films in which she participates, only the names of the actors are mentioned.

Isabel Seguí, also the author of The Women of the Ukamau Group: On and Off the Screen, comments that the search for Benedicta, “as well as a trace of her biography, would be feasible and of great interest, since it is likely that she is still alive. that he had not reached the age of twenty when he started his work with Ukamau ”.

Regarding the roles constructed for Benedicta in Sanjinés' films, Seguí argues that she "embodies essentialized and victimized fictional characters." These representations in the filmography of the Ukamau Group were turned upside down years later, also with the appearance of an essential woman in Bolivian history.

Domitila Barrios

For Seguí, Domitila, as the leader of a grassroots political and social movement, "explored ways to combat invisibility and took advantage of any opportunity (oral, written, audiovisual) to raise her voice." The appearance of her in the spectrum of Bolivian cinema, then, poses a disruption.

The first historical testimony of Domitila appears in the documentary El coraje del pueblo. In a complex cinematographic device - in which fictionalization and the documentary do not seem to have limits - the representation of it on the screen constitutes an autonomous creation, which in no way can be attributed solely to the director of the film.

The fierce leader had a key creative role in the consolidation of a key film for national history. The San Juan massacre, around which the film revolves, had been omitted or minimized by the press of the time.

In Muy Waso Podcast we also recover part of Domitila's participation in El coraje del pueblo for the mashup that we did in the 2020 Podcasting on state violence in Latin America, along with Historia Chiquita de México.

In this fragment, she Domitila vindicates the courage of the mining housewives in the face of military interventions and reproaches the "cowardice" of her male companions, who according to the leader remained "like mummies" when they saw them in uniform.

Domitila was also the protagonist of other documentaries and series such as La doble día, La mujer minra y la Organización or Rebeldías. In all of her appearances they highlight her ability to take control of her representation and the narrative that is woven around her and her companions.

Although Domitila is an indisputable reference, it is necessary to highlight that, according to her own principles, she also embodies a collective voice, committed to popular demands.

“These women, who neither possessed the means of film production nor did they have the audiovisual technical knowledge that would have allowed them to make their own films, are nevertheless co-authors of the films because, through the execution of performances of collective creation, refined after many years of practicing taking over public space, they managed to exercise control over the ways in which they were represented ”.

Isabel Seguí

Sebastiana Kespi

She is the protagonist of one of the cornerstones of the national filmography: Vuelve Sebastiana. At just ten years old, she immortalized herself in front of Jorge Ruíz's cameras in an anthropological and innovative documentary for her time.

Curiously, according to Guillermo Ruíz, the filmmaker's son, during filming —in 1953— Sebastiana was not aware of what filming and cinema represented as such.

"I thought you were taking pictures of me," she told Ruíz 17 years later, when she saw herself at the screening of the documentary for the first time. In other words, Sebastiana's interpretation is completely organic, without any direct mediation with the performative concept of cinema.

Her participation in Vuelve Sebastiana allowed her to manage, on some occasions, aid and donations for her community. Almost half a century later she also earned him many accolades and accolades.

However, Sebastiana's quality of life, even in her last years, despite the demagoguery of politicians such as former Vice President Álvaro García Linera, did not change much in more than fifty years.

Sebastiana herself died in 2019, at the age of 77, with countless obituaries in the country's main media.

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