Saturday, July 23, 2011

writing through the day

Pop the corn.  Pour the soda.  And buy those raisenettes and jujubes.

It is movie night.  Or more accurately, movie day.

But I am getting ahead of myself.  My stop at the Guanajuato International Film Festival did not start until the afternoon.  And my day of activities was well under way by then.

I have been very fortunate to meet a number of fellow bloggers during my stay in San Miguel de Allende  I expected to meet most of them.  But we had a surprise visitor this morning.

Marc Olson of an alaskan in yucatán stopped by for a quick visit.  Babs and I picked him up at the bus station and drove him up to her house -- where we had a pleasant conversation on what he is doing in this part of the world.

For several years he has been spending part of his summers in a puebla outside of Querétaro.  It is something like summer camp with a purpose.  He teaches ways for the children to help their village become more sustainable.  By planting trees.  Taking care of litter.  Learning how to be a friendlier presence on this planet.  I am hoping he will tell us a bit more on his blog.

We then adjourned to lunch.  Because what would a blogger meet be without food?  We decided on Italian, and Babs directed us to a little restaurant I have walked past several times – El Vivlio.  I am not going to walk by again without stopping to eat.

The food was far better than anything in Melaque.  In fact, it was better than most of the restaurants in Salem.

But, as good as the food was, the conversation was better.  We talked about what seems to work on each of our blogs.  And what we have learned from fellow bloggers.  Plus our usual critique of the blogs we like -- and why -- and those that don’t seem to work for us as well as others.  Of course, we lamented the passing of Felipe’s blog.

Far too soon our afternoon was over and Marc rushed to catch a cab in a downpour.  Babs decided to catch a cab back up the hill.  And I elected to wander over to the film festival.

Someone has done a great job of turning an unused cinema into a great venue for the festival.  Everything (including what I assume are temporary seat cushions) had a spiffy look.

When I arrived, they were showing a series of shorter films.  I did not catch the title of the first film.  But it was a clever montage of group photographs of people who represent power in the world culture -- all scanned left to right and increasing in speed to represent that power is power. 

Even though I am not quite certain what Queen Elizabeth and the Chippendale dancers have in common.  What the power photographs did have in common is that everyone was in stiff poses.

The parade of bourgeois rectitude was replaced with heroic photographs of young people throwing Molotov cocktails and challenging The Man.  As revolutionary propaganda it was visually interesting.  But the title I missed could easily have been “Clichés of Youth.”

And speaking of youth, the next two films were about boys on wheels.  Skateboard wheels to be exact.

The first was a documentary entitled Skateistan -- eponymously titled for a program in Afghanistan to teach Afghan boys and girls to skateboard.  A place to break down sexual and class barriers while giving the children hope.  One of the male skaters lamented the fact that the Taliban had brought peace, now there was war, and that Afghanistan needs a leader who can bring peace.  The End.  I guess that was the hopeful note.

The other skater film was Dragonslayer -- an American film (partly filmed in Oregon) about a young man who has nothing in life except skating.  It was dreadfully boring.  And I suspect the director wanted it that way.  For us to share in this kid’s almost existential Charybdis.  My suggestion would be to get his butt to Afghanistan at Skateistan.

But I cannot skip over my favorite Mexican short.  For me, it was the highlight of the afternoon.  Tomatl is a witty revenge film.  In some incredibly clever stop-action photography, the film traces the spread of the tomato throughout the world as an Aztec plot.  When the Aztec calendar ends next year, a secret poison in the tomato will annihilate the world in revenge for what the Spanish did to the Aztecs.  If you note a tongue buried deep in a certain Mayan myth, you will appreciate what the film offers.

But the big piece was in the evening.  Paul Schrader’s Mishima: A Life in Four Chapters.

Before the film began, Paul Schrader, who wrote and directed the film, told us a bit about the background of the film and how it related to some of his other works – including Taxi Driver and its theme of ritual suicide. 

The film is a stylized biography of Yukio Mishami’s life using three of his novels as devices to move Mishami’s life along.  For artistic authenticity, the dialog is in Japanese.  And where there are usually English subtitles, Spanish subtitles appeared.  As a result, a lot of the expatriate audience cleared out in the first 15 minutes.  But, to be fair, quite a few Mexican nationals left early as well.

It is too bad.  They missed a stunningly beautiful film -- very Japanese in its visual effects.  And some marvelous acting.  Not to mention an outstanding soundtrack by Philip Glass.

For me, it topped off a great day of talking about writing and seeing the results of some very good writing on the screen.

I was about to add one rant.  But I will save that for another day.  This day was too good to ruin it with my own irritations with some audience members.


Dan in NC. said...

Sheesh! You are a living Chinese parable... Stay in one place long enough, and everyone in the Mexican blogging world will pass by you! Actually, though, it sounded like a great day/evening!
Dan in NC

Francisco said...

Was there a meet and greet with Mr. Schrader?  I would've have liked to let him  know how much I've enjoyed his films over the years.  Sounds like an excellent day in SMA.

Marc Olson said...

I always learn something when I read your blog, and sitting down for a few hours of conversation in person is a refreshing experience. Add Babs, her unique perspective and gracious hospitality, her fabulous rooftop view in San Miguel, and a wonderful Italian lunch...yes, Steve, it was a very fine day.

Steve Cotton said...

If all goes well, at least one more blogger should come my way before I head to Patzcuaro.

Steve Cotton said...

Something we both need to do more often.

Steve Cotton said...

He is conducting a master class today. I hope to attend after church. His films are always visually and intellectually stunning.

Babsofsanmiguel said...

Steve, indeed it was fun meeting Marc and having lunch at Vivoli.  That restaurant is owned by an Italian who opened his first restaurant in Hollywood, California - a market even tougher then San Miguel.
We are blessed to have so many diverse, and in my opinion, good restaurants here - from Sri Lankan to Thai, to Noodle shops to more Italian and others too numerous to count.  Glad ya'll enljoyed your meals.

tancho said...

“Expatriate audience cleared out in the first 15
minutes."   I guess if it was not "Americanized”, it simply was
not worth watching....

Too bad more expats do not enjoy the country simply because of a lack of
language skills commitment. I often wonder why some move down here and then
refuse to immerse themselves into learning the language other than "una
mas cervesa por favor" or Grassy Ass....
However, when you have whole communities such as in Chapala where the signs and
primary language is English, why bother. Then the Gringos get upset when NOB
the immigrants never learn the language because the same thing happens, by
having sufficient signs on the highway, DMV tests, and auto attendants on the
phone have Spanish.
Enjoy SMA, culture capitol of Gringolandia. Then return to Malaque to retain
your sanity.
You are fortunate to be able to meet and greet your fellow bloggers in SMA, it
is truly rewarding to develop keyboard friendships today, all of my meetings
with fellow bloggers have always been positive, especially since by reading and
chatting with them for years you get to know them quite well.

Steve Cotton said...

As I was sitting here eating lunch, I realized I have cooked most of my meals.  Maybe that is just as well.  If I had lunches every day like the one yesterday.  I would need to be rolled down the hill.

Steve Cotton said...

To be fair, Paul Schrader's script when translated to Spanish was difficult.  That was apparent from the number of Mexican nationals who left early, as well.

Based on several sources, I expected to be confronted with English wherever I went in San Miguel.  With the exception of a couple of waiters, I have always been addressed in Spanish here, and when I was beyond my depth, there were no English-speaking staff to resolve the issue.  I was forced to muddle through -- just as I do in Melaque.

What I did find interesting is that several young Mexicans approached me last night wanting to discuss what the film meant.  They were surprised that my Spanish was not fluent.  And I liked that.  I do not want people to assume that I am as language impaired as I am.  And, as I keep saying, I need to change that.

Wyntopia said...

I love the film recommendations.  I'll add them to my list for when the film festival hits Guanajuato. ~Wyn

Steve Cotton said...

I think we are playing the annex to your festival this year.  I hope they come over your way.  Good to hear from you again.

LeslieLimon said...

The more I read about your trip to SMA, the more I want to visit!  Someday!  :)   

Steve Cotton said...

You should. I put it off far too long.