Natalia Bruschtein presents Suspended Time in the Latin American Competition
Intense, intelligent and deep. That is the outline of the documentary Suspended Time, by Natalia Bruschtein, in the Latin American Competition. An eloquent mirror image of society, if faces us with the need of memory and with the consistent and crucial struggle to remember in order to build from there. Intimate and thoughtful, this Mexican production rallies against the naturalization of losses, not only imposed losses but also –and most importantly- against the losses endorsed by concealed indifference.
Why did you choose the figure of your grandmother to talk about the fragmentation of memory?
In 2000, I made a documentary short film about my father, one of Laura’s disappeared children. A cousin of mine who lives in Argentina helped me with the film and then told me we should do a documentary about our grandmother. I kept the idea in my mind for eleven years, until Laura started losing her memory. During that time, I read a biography of my grandmother written by journalist Claude Mary. When I finished reading it, I realized the book was already a fragmentation of memory. The book has two tones: the first one, the story of her family, where they come from and her entire childhood; the other one, the moment when Noni dies, and that’s when the story changes. During that time, a friend sent me a documentary by Humberto "el Negro” Ríos made in 1979, where my grandmother appears, and I saw the paradox of her repeating countless times the testimonies of what had happened with each of her disappeared and murdered relatives and that now she doesn’t even remember having kids.
How was the research experience, bearing in mind that personal and professional aspects got mixed?
At first, it was very painful meeting my grandmother and seeing she didn’t recognize me or she didn’t remember her sons. I felt despair, but after spending a lot of time with her, I realized she had emotional memory, and that senility doesn’t completely erase memories, like an eraser. Memories come and go, and many times what she goes through is illogical. They say that immediate memories disappear and the oldest ones remain. I have the feeling that years get erased and, with them, memories. It’s like time traveling, since she seemed to be 18. Several times, she would ask me, "You are mi nephew or my cousin, right?” At times she couldn’t believe I was her granddaughter or that she had great-grandsons. But I loved spending those moments with her, it was her purest essence, absolute kindness and a lot of love.
How did you work with historical records, footage and the videos of when your grandmother was younger and denounced her children’s disappearance, in order to achieve that perfect parallelism which shows the contradiction between memory and oblivion?
My starting point was the fact that she repeated millions of times the denunciations of the disappearance and murder of her children, sons-in-law and the father of her children and that. in the end, she couldn’t remember any of that. I always wanted to show the other side. I didn’t want to talk about the disappeared or about Madres de Plaza de Mayo, and that helped me focus on memory as an abstract theme of the documentary. So, past and present were constantly mixing. On the other hand, it was very complicated to choose fragments of Laura’s footage, especially the texts, since there were so many of them, from psychological texts to very personal stuff. Since I came into contact with the texts until we finished the structure during editing, I kept reading and selecting fragments that seemed interesting and thoughtful. Once we finished, I cleared everything. There were so many other things I wanted to include, but it would’ve been a different film.
Which elements did you have in mind when writing the script since you are dealing with a very sensitive issue in Argentina, and nearly all Latin America, in order to achieve a poetically new perspective on a recurrent theme in audiovisual culture?
Ever since I started the project I knew I didn’t want to make another film about the disappeared and Madres de Plaza de Mayo. But I did want to talk about memory. In Mexico, the country where I live since we left Argentina in exile, there are constant violations to human rights. In the past 6 years, approximately 24000 people have disappeared, and Mexican society usually forgets everything very soon. I thought it was important to talk about the importance of memory, to show Laura as an exemplary person for her struggle, and the importance of always fighting for what you believe in.
On the other hand, I wanted to make a film where the audience could feel identified with Laura, not only those who have a disappeared relative, but also those who have a relative with senility or Alzheimer, or those who can simply understand the lack of social memory and its importance.
What are your expectations regarding the film’s exhibition at the Festival and the audience reception?
I’m very happy that the film is exhibited at the Festival, it’s a very important festival with a great audience. I’m looking forward to seeing the Argentine audience reception, since it’s a very different audience from Mexico and Europe. I think reception and reflection will be very good, and that there will be an interesting and enriching debate.
SUN 1, 10.20 am, CIN 1
SUN 1, 6.50 pm, CIN 1
MON 2, 4.00 pm, CIN 1