El Velador: Interview with Filmmaker Natalia Almada

El Velador: Interview with Filmmaker Natalia Almada

On Wednesday, March 16, Haverford students and community members will have the opportunity to view the documentary El Velador and speak with award winning filmmaker Natalia Almada. The quiet, mesmerizing film follows the nightwatchman of a “narco-cementary”, where some of Mexico’s most notorious drug lords are buried. For a sneak-peek into Wednesday’s event, Natalia Almada agreed to a brief interview on El Velador and filmmaking in general. Icarus Films describes El Velador as “a film about violence without violence.” Do you agree? Why did you decide not to explicitly portray violence? Yes, that’s how I describe the film. In part it was a reaction to the mainstream media in Mexico, which is flooded with extremely graphic images of violence. The result of such images is that eventually they cease to touch us. We become numb to their horror and turn away. They also serve to support a discourse in which the perpetrators of these crimes are simply seen as monsters and therefore not human beings who deserve to have rights. It allows us to disassociate the violence from our social responsibility; we are no longer implicated. I believe that the violence we are experiencing in Mexico is a result of our unequal and unjust society—not only Mexican society but global society and we need to make media which allows us to see it, think about it and feel it. My hope I suppose was that the absence of violence in my film would actually allow for a reflection on violence. I was watching the trailer for El Velador on Youtube, and I couldn’t help but notice that many of the suggested videos were news pieces such as “Univision News...
Public Art in Philadelphia

Public Art in Philadelphia

With help from the Hurford Humanities Center’s Summer Research Fellowship fund, I have spent the past couple months fully immersed in the filmmaking process. As a film and media studies major at Swarthmore, I was given the option to do an independent thesis and I immediately jumped on that opportunity. After having worked on multiple documentary projects during my time at Haverford (thanks to the wonderful Vicky Funari), I knew that I wanted to engage my documentary skills and experiences in a topic close to home. Philadelphia has always been an under-appreciated city in my eyes, and having it as a cultural, historical, academic, and experiential resource has been crucial to the development of my thesis. My guiding question entering this project was something along the lines of, “How does public art delineate and/or subvert socioeconomic and cultural borders”. Since the beginning of the summer I’ve been able to narrow my focus to South Philadelphia, specifically the significant Nepalese, Burmese and Bhutanese refugee populations that have accumulated in recent years. Southeast x Southeast is a community resource  and arts center for these refugees, which aims to use art as a vehicle for storytelling and community building. With support from the Philadelphia Department of Behavioral Health and Intellectual disAbility Services, the Lutheran Children and Family Service, and the Mural Arts Program, the project has expanded beyond its initial community events and has become a long term project for artist Shira Walinsky. In addition to organizational duties and teaching ESL classes, Shira has been working on related public art projects, including the soon-to-be-completed Language Lab mural at the intersection of 7th...
John Muse on STRANGE TRUTH

John Muse on STRANGE TRUTH

STRANGE TRUTH is a film series at the Bryn Mawr Film Institute and Haverford College that starts this very Wednesday. The series is organized by Professors Vicky Funari (Artist in Residence), Joshua Moses (Anthropology), and John Muse (Independent College Programs). John Muse, currently teaching “Film On Photography,” took the time to answer a few questions about Wednesday’s program, featuring the work of the late Harun Farocki. 1. Are you teaching any of Farocki’s work in your classes? These very films plus essays on Farocki by Kaja Silverman and D.N. Rodowick. 2. Would you categorize these films as documentaries? Why or why not? Neither are documentaries per se.  “Images of the World…” is what’s known as an essay film.  en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Essay#Film  Essay films are typically pointed, argumentative, but can also be searching and reflexive.  Or they can be personal, more like journal entries or meditations on a theme than presentations of the facts.  “Images of the World…” is more like the former, Engaging as it does with history, politics, and technologies in a reflexive mode, one that asks viewers to think about seeing and what they’re seeing.  “An Image” is stranger.  Lacking narration, a fly-on-the-wall methodology, or interviews, it’s structured more as a fiction film where the characters just happen to be real people all of whom are engaged in careful but seemingly ridiculous work.  The film reveals what the photographic image will hide: the labor required to produce it. 3. What are the connections between a film about a Playboy shoot and a film about reconnaissance of Auschwitz? Both films teach us how cameras and the technical systems within which...
Sandy Tripods

Sandy Tripods

The 2010 Deepwater Horizon oil spill may have drifted to the far corners of our collective memory, but its impacts are still being felt along the affected region of the Gulf Coast. From Pensacola to New Orleans, there continue to be environmental, economic, and sociopolitical consequences that have often escaped the attention of those not directly involved in the aftermath of the spill. www.youtube.com/watch?v=hn4exS_TeGw Through the Interdisciplinary Documentary Media Fellowship, the four of us, Hilary Brashear, Dan Fries, Gebby Keny, Sarah Moses, have had the opportunity to travel down to the Gulf Coast. Following Prof. Helen White and her two chemistry students, Alana Thurston and Chloe Wang, we traveled from Pensacola, FL to Gulfport, MS to New Orleans, LA as they collected samples of oil that continue to wash up along the shore. Rain or shine (mostly shine…hot shine) Helen, Alana, and Chloe marched forward on their search as we chased them with our cameras. Their discerning eyes were quite impressive, finding the tiniest of oil samples among the decoy debris (much to our chagrin, whenever we tried to help we just picked up wood chips). Running after Helen in the blazing heat consists of only part of our documentation this summer. Together, we are developing a short film about the impacts of the Deepwater Horizon spill that explores questions of restoration and voice, while examining our own role as outsiders to the region and the issues at hand. We return to the Gulf in July, focusing our efforts primarily on New Orleans. To be continued… ...

Documentary short on African-American Catholic music culture

This past winter break, I had the chance to travel to Mississippi on a research stipend through the Hurford Center in order to film a short documentary on African-American Catholic music culture in the Deep South. During the filming, I collaborated with film students from The University of Mississippi, and throughout the editing process I will be working with Brandon Kelly ’15. A screening of the film will take place on Haverford’s campus later this semester. Martin Luther King once made the penetrating observation “that the most segregated hour of Christian America is eleven o’clock on Sunday morning.” Unfortunately, this remark remains true today in Mississippi. Segregation in church has continued for the most part, despite increasing integration in other institutions. A consequence of this fact has been the formation of a distinct African-American gospel music, separate from white, European church music. Just as churches have often been segregated, religious music styles and philosophies have traditionally been divided by race. However, African-American Catholic church music may not be understood based on these conventional parameters about race and tradition. Before the Second Vatican Council, all Catholic churches were limited in their freedom of musical expression during the Mass. For example, the use of any percussion instruments (including piano) was prohibited. In addition, it was required that the Mass be said in Latin. These constraints created a uniformity to religious Catholic worship that crossed both national and racial borders. No matter where you walked into a Mass, it would theoretically be the same. After the Second Vatican Council in the early 1960s, this all changed. The Vatican lifted restrictions and Catholic...