look & listen

Poster!

We finished the poster design. Here’s a preview:

Managua screening

We have confirmed dates for the Nicaraguan private screening, organized and sponsored by three embassies: Spain, USA and The Netherlands. It will take place on 2 December at 19 hours in the newly constructed Spanish Cultural Center in Managua. I realize there are many screenings to come, but this one is particularly important to me because the audience will be made up out of people related to the film’s issue: government workers, diplomats, NGO people, etc. And the local film crew, obviously. Sujeylin won’t be there (her choice), but I’ll personally show her the film the day before. I truly hope she likes it.

I have a deal with Sujeylin that there won’t be any public screenings in Nicaragua, in order to protect her privacy. So this is the only one we can and will do. Considering I spent a lot of time there to shoot the film, I am extra excited and grateful for this opportunity.

Meanwhile, the Spanish have asked me to do a workshop for young Nicaraguan documentary makers as well as a master class for the more senior ones. The former will be very practical, where we will spend three days working on ideas they have – hopefully to a point where they can deliver a short movie created during the workshop. The latter will be a presentation of a few hours on “objectivity and ethics in documentary production”, one of my favorite subjects since having made Karla’s Arrival.

Lost and found!

I just got off the phone with Sujeylin. We spoke for 20 minutes. She had called one of the Nicaraguan production assistants, who afterwards sent me a mail with her number. What a relief.

I’m afraid she’s not that well. Not that she’s in any situation she hasn’t been in before, but when we left her back in April she was well on her way to dramatically improving the quality of her life. Her side of the story is that ex-boyfriend Felix stole everything from her and left her behind in the village of her mother. She then moved back to Managua a month ago, and rented a small room (when you see my film you’ll see these rooms are pretty tough). She’s living of what she knows best: selling marijuana. I don’t blame her. She has no real alternative.

Poverty is very circular. It’s very hard to improve anything when you’re living from hand to mouth. One little hitch and you’re back to square one. The “poor” (whoever we include in a definition of this word, and if we are allowed to generalize) have a double disadvantage in trying to escape their situation – there are no resources to undertake anything and nothing to fall back on either when business is slow. Whatever business that may be.

Sujeylin and Karla live of 2-3 dollar a day. “Why don’t you help her?” you’ll ask. We did. We helped her set up a business, less than five months ago. She was all excited about it. But her relationship got in-between it, and destroyed any prospect for it to flourish.

I should be seeing her at the end of October. Until then, and now that we know where she is, we’ll be talking about how to improve her situation in the short-term from a distance. Even though I don’t want to be the one keeping her alive. I want that to be her.

Karla is doing ok. She’s left with some friend or family member during the day, who feeds her and takes care of her. That’s a good thing.

It was good to hear Sujeylin’s voice. She cried all the way through, and evoked in me a strong desire to go and see things for myself. It’s such a paradox. We’re here planning the release of the film, premieres, festivals, etc. (ok, and a strong fundraising element for the Casa Alianza Young Mother’s Program) and she’s back to square one. Almost to where she was pretty much when I first got to know her.

Strange, this world.

Sujeylin formally missing

I was misinformed. She isn’t at her mother’s farm, but rather disappeared to Managua a month ago with Karla. But no one knows where she is!

I’m afraid she’s back on the streets, although she’s inventive and knows how to take care of herself. She might have checked into the rooms they rented before right after Karla’s birth.

ICAA paradox

I have often written about how difficult it is to be part of the Spanish film industry, and as a result obtain subsidies, interest from national public broadcaster TVE or from Spanish film festivals. All of these elements are inter-related and guided by a common denominator: who your friends are. Sad, but true. For film subsidies for instance, the selection committee doesn’t actually read all 400+ applications but simply looks at who the director is, or the producer.

If your name counts, it’s better to be called Pepe Sanchez than Koen Suidgeest. I am living proof of that! So, in the process of making Karla’s Arrival, I have resigned to the fact that, despite living in Spain, here I won’t be able to count on any support from anyone ever. That way, I won’t be disappointed.

Think about it: the second documentary ever to get support from the prestigious ITVS International, a film with nine international pre-sales to other countries, one of the few films ever to be chosen to pitch at the IDFA Forum, made by a Spanish Academy Award nominee… and no support from the Ministry of Culture, TVE doesn’t return my calls, the film festival in Valladolid (generally considered the festival of Spanish cinema whom I offered the world premiere) doesn’t want us…

Not getting a subsidy from the ICAA (the Ministry of Culture) was a major blow last year and made me come to this “you-won’t-ever-be-part-of this-and-maybe-better-so” realization. And accept it. But this morning I was in their offices and things have gotten worse. Instead of me receiving support for producing culture, I now need to pay them to actually watch the film to get the age certificate required by law. This is a first, as far as I remember.

Now, it’s not much money: 1,3868 euros for every 11 minutes of film or part thereof. In my case, 12,48 euros. But still… it seems like a paradox. Should I expect public services to be free? Probably not. Should I expect, after all this time, to get the support others are also getting for far less successful projects? Definitely.

Sujeylin where are you?

It’s not as dramatic as it sounds, but I am having a really hard time staying in touch with Sujeylin. I again spoke to her aunt yesterday, and she told me Sujeylin is living on the small farm they have out in the middle of nowhere. I was asked to call again tomorrow to give her time to find out how I could get in touch.

I’d really like to know how they are (mother and her two children). And I am planning to be in Nicaragua at the end of October / beginning of November, and would want to see her to show her the film.

You can read about an exhausting visit to this farm in March 2009 here. And this is proof I was there: