Welcome to the second installment of MFA|EDA’s 4th Friday Alumni 6Pack. We are pleased to continue the new custom with the inimitable Talena Sanders, from the inaugural Class of 2013. Away we go:
To thrust oneself into the affairs of others. I am here (right now, in Mexico) from elsewhere, and I am around all the time. There I am with my camera at the graduation, at the family’s home, in the market, on the bus, following Yanet at work. “She’s recording again.” Moving between modes, questioning my subjectivity with every frame, the technicalities to making a beautiful image to honor a moment, and when to set the camera down and help make the tortillas, share dinner, be present, tell stories. I move through these instincts all day long, when I feel an itchiness to record, when to respond to it, when to ignore it.
The weight of responsibility of being entrusted to represent someone else’s experiences, especially as an outsider. Knowing that I will never really know, will never understand anything concretely, wholly. How to work always within questioning. Then the Maldonados, my collaborators and I spend late evenings talking in the kitchen and the feeling of connection is so tangible it makes me tear up.
Fruits of Mexico
One of my great pleasures here is trying new fruits. I will eat anything I have never seen before, and who knew there were so many kinds of bananas? Before I leave here some percentage of my body will be comprised solely of mamey.
A reference point for my current project, a film following women doing something daring, and beautiful, and carrying the weight of mainting cultural traditions. The intimacy of the access here is deeply moving. Watching Ama-San, I get the feeling of the experience that filmmaker Cláudia Varejãohad, being welcomed in to a community, into families’ daily lives. There isn’t a traditional narrative structure, no overstated conflict that needs to be resolved by the end, everything is gentle, slow, delicate, warm. And then there are these otherworldly beautiful underwater sequences, unreal.
I am late to the game on this one, since most of my work so far has been made completely on my own. We are making a feminist film as a small all woman crew, with people shifting in and out as their schedules allow. In the current political climate, I want to be around other women, working side by side to express the stories of women. The starting point for our film is following women in Huauchinango who perform the Danza de Los Voladores, an indigenous ritual traditionally only performed by men. We ask each other good questions, we look out for each other, we encourage each other to take care of ourselves. We share in the awe of the experience of making this film and sometimes we just help each other carry things. Grandmothers and partners visit with us when we are shooting because there is space for life to breathe into this process. I trust the work is stronger because of how we work together and take care with each other.
It is grown all around here, central to the economy both large and local, people sell their roasts out of their homes. I most love how it’s a shorthand to mean I want to start hanging out with you, I want to keep hanging out with you, I want to create more time and space to be with you.
The sensuality of being in a body in a different circumstance than daily life at home: learning the taste and heat of each kind of chile, the texture of a handmade versus a machine-made tortilla, the rhythmic clap of hands preparing those tortillas, letting the act of eating consume me, so that if I am made ill by something at least it was worth it. The flood of scents in a market, on the street — exhaust fumes, sweet breads baking, chopped onions, meat hanging in the open air, over-ripe mangos. As I am writing these words I am hearing a funeral procession with a brass band, roosters crowing, passing cars with speakers blaring messages about their tamales, gas, water tanks for sale. Shaping new words with my mouth in Nahuatl, Totonac, Hñähñú, Spanish, opening it wider than with English, feeling different resonances on my tongue, vibrating in my ears. Feeling the limitations of the body as a kind of indulgence, too, being awash in the dull feeling of an off stomach, itchiness, overheating, responding to the monthly cycle with gentleness, slowing. Dancing, because more and more the film is becoming a dance film, too — the sound and sensation of feet pounding the ground in unison, billowing dust coating every surface. The bringing together of bodies, touching cheeks with everyone I meet, the soft, light handshake when meeting an elder, cramming extra people together in the car, hip bones pressing into legs, sweat and heat and open windows whipping Mara’s heavy braid against my shoulder.
Next month: Lexi Bass (’18).
See you then.