Jorge Cadena • Director of The Jarariju Sisters
“I want to bring out a new critical perspective of our patriarchal and heteronormative society”
by Laurence Boyce
- We asked Colombian director Jorge Cadena to help us explore his Swiss short film The Jarariju Sisters, which will be at the EFP’s Future Frames at Karlovy Vary
Jorge Cadena’s The Jarariju Sisters sees the members of the Colombian Wayuu tribe fight to keep their way of life whilst industry threatens to destroy all around them. At the centre of the story are two sisters who, after their father’s death, must decide whether to move on or keep the old ways of the past. Moving between documentary and fiction, the film is a poetic and moving affair that has already been popular on the festival circuit after premiering at Winterthur in 2018 and screening in competition at this year’s Berlin International Film Festival.
Cineuropa: Can you tell us more about the Wayuu tribe in Colombia and what drew you to making a film involving them?
Jorge Cadena: The Wayúu community is one of the largest indigenous groups in Colombia that has experienced processes of transculturation and resistance from colonization to the present. Having grown up in the Caribbean region in the north of the country, I used to regularly visit indigenous reserves with my family and I have seen how the Wayuu population has been progressively affected by coal mining, causing an alarming increase in deaths related to respiratory diseases, malnutrition and water pollution. It is also one of the territories with the highest levels of corruption and assassination of social leaders in recent years. The project is born with these memories and this harsh reality of the Guajira region, in the north of the country.
The film balances on the edge between fiction and documentary. Can you tell us a little but more about the protagonists in the film and how you got them to appear?
Starting with the idea and the need to talk about the reality of these territories, the Wayuu community and the coal mine, we made several visits and researches in the region between 2015 and 2017. In the region, my sister (a sociologist and feminist) co-writer of this film and I met two Wayúu teenage girls, Yandris and Viviana Jarariju. They both have strong personalities and grasp the reality of their situation very lucidly. The day after this first meeting, we enthusiastically went back to their home and fixed together with them the story of The Jarariju Sisters. Thanks to the real life of the sisters, the first idea of the short film we had was transformed into a collective work in which the boundary between documentary and fiction became blurred.
The film deals with the clash between modernity and tradition as well as issues of generations and gender- are these issues important to you as filmmaker – and, indeed, as a person?
As a Colombian, I feel bound to the reality of my country and to the questions of identity and how to translate them into my cinema. It is a question of provoking a cinematographic space where we learn to deconstruct and rebuild the reality. I want to bring out a new critical perspective of our patriarchal and heteronormative society, which reveals questions about living together and the possibility for everyone to simply exist.
In my work, I try to open subversive spaces to make the intimate and marginalized visible. My work explores the different layers of violence in our society. I work with an interest for the relationship between memory and history. I like to think of my films as formal experiments. We use writing to structure ideas that we defend.
Can you let us know about the practicalities of shooting?
One month before our shooting in February 2018, we moved into the community and lived with them. On the one hand, we translated the entire script into Wayuunaiki, the language spoken by the community; a decision that contributed to the narration and made it even closer to the reality of the protagonists. On the other hand, we organized during those weeks a series of workshops with the characters; workshops related to voice, gesticulation, memory, the habituation of the actors with the working team. Create a relationship; create our own way of communicating for the moment of shooting.
You are originally from Colombia. What is your view of filmmaking in the country and the importance of your experience as a film student in Europe. Is there anything that Europe could learn from Columbia cinematically?
Despite the important growth of the film industry in Colombia, I haven’t seen a large number of Colombian films in recent years. One of the reasons is geographical, since I haven't lived in my country for more than ten years. Another reason is ideological. I feel that the Colombian film industry censors those who have proposals outside the hegemonic conservative discourse.
I think I was lucky enough to find the right school at the right time. The Art school, for me was the space of experimentation and resistance to the forms of European cinema, that pushed my personal search towards other ways of telling Latin American stories. A vertiginous path that allowed me to explore narration from something more organic, that includes my Caribbean identity and its multiculturalism.
What do you plan for your next project?
Once I finished school last summer, I immediately began writing my first feature film. This new project, we see as a colorful journey, raising questions about living together, beyond heteronormativity, and the rejection of the endemic disasters that plague many countries. I would like this film to be mobilizing, enchanting and free from any misery. And in the truth of his many turns and detours, it will hopefully inspire a little hope and happiness.
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