Uncertain Times is a film series stretching from early May to late August and programmed in three blocks. From the imagery and possibilities assayed in film and video, the season seeks to ignite reflection and a search for answers in light of the pandemic and social emergency situation.
Uncertain Times III. Sustaining Lives, the third instalment comprising the summer cinema, is devoted to possible futures in this new period. Held for the first time in the Sabatini Garden and split into two themed weekly sessions, it orbits around the world we are gingerly returning to and the challenges and questions it raises. What role will care now play in social hierarchy? What will happen to historically marginalised people in this new reconstruction of daily life? How can we mend the social divide that this health crisis has compounded? In the films that make up this new edition of the outdoor cinema, we gain glimpses into children relegated to disruptive objects; invisible women who silently clean and disinfect for our peace of mind; female healthcare workers who cover, through overexertion, the flaws of a health system designed in line with regulations of economic profitability; journalists who try to give every lost life value and its place in memory; and communities that practice the daily pleasure of knowing your neighbour and lending them a hand. These situations, clearly nothing new, are presented as constants in this old new post-COVID world to which we are returning.
Without denying the severity of the situation or turning a blind eye to the difficulties and obstacles we encounter in the fight for social justice, the series also attempts to discover some kind of hope in the small acts of resistance. It has been organised in collaboration with Museo Situado, a network that the Reina Sofía intertwines with collectives and associations from its urban environment in Madrid’s Lavapiés neighbourhood. Along with the screenings, the program includes different presentations, an opening sound-art performance by Juan Carlos Blancas and a closing concert by Julián Mayorga.
With the sponsorship of:
The Unfinished Threat and The New Normal
Friday, 24 July 2020
Alfred Hitchcock. The Birds
USA, 1963, colour, original version in English with Spanish subtitles, 120’
Presented by Ana Useros, co-curator of the series.
With a sound-art performance prior to the screening by Juan Carlos Blancas.
The summer cinema opens with an experimental piece by the sound artist Juan Carlos Blancas who will present an acoustic landscape of sounds related to experiences lived during confinement, in dialogue with the film that is screened afterwards and the natural space of the garden.
Shut in our homes we looked in disbelief at an outside with the exact same appearance, albeit empty, as the previous day. Hitchcock’s plague is portrayed through an equally anodyne element — the birds that share a habitat with humans, almost inexplicably, force the film’s characters to confine themselves in a normative family structure, where they have no choice but to question, judge and, with time and luck, perhaps accept one another. The menacing ending, which seems to tell us that, from now on, we cannot hide from ourselves, does nothing if not reinforce the film’s paradoxically humanist message.
Saturday, 25 July 2020
Mon oncle (My Uncle)
Jacques Tati. Mon oncle (My Uncle)
France, 1958, colour, original version in French with Spanish subtitles, 116’
In Tati’s films characters resignedly witness the appearance of new artefacts, rules and environments, as demonstrated in the “American method” of delivering letters in The Big Day (1949) or the inhuman constructions of Playtime (1967). Humour comes from these changes being accepted uncritically and from the human body having to contort and come apart to adapt to them. As Tati’s filmography expanded, popular culture and proximity disappeared as his characters started to wander through this new dehumanised world. Yet, in My Uncle, his most popular film for a period of time, there is still a contrast between the old world and the new, between human affection and the aspiration of hygiene and full disinfection. Hostility tinged with nostalgia which, in its own right, is a warning to those of us tempted to romanticise the pre-pandemic world.
The Exploitation of Nature
Friday, 31 July 2020
Un cierto porvenir (A Certain Future) / Il pianeta azzurro (The Blue Planet)
David Varela. Un cierto porvenir (A Certain Future)
Spain, 2020, colour, original version in Spanish, 12’
Franco Piavoli. Il pianeta azzurro (The Blue Planet)
Italy, 1982, colour, original version without dialogue, 88’
Presented by film-maker and programmer David Varela, director of DocumentaMadrid, with Andrea Guzmán, from 2017 to 2019.
The Blue Planet engulfs us in the cyclical time of the seasons and the natural landscape in all its splendour, with the human figure one detail in a system of multiple lives and species. In this historical debut feature, lauded by Bertolucci and Tarkovsky, Piavoli composed a sensorial symphony that celebrates life through the passing of time, demonstrating another relationship with nature, at once ethical and beautiful, where human beings are simply one among many species. David Varela, meanwhile, draws from Piavoli to devise a dystopia on ecological disaster that straddles factual realism and fictional science. The short film, shot during the weeks of lockdown, is a disturbing account of extinction.
Saturday, 1 August 2020
Nikolaus Geyrhalter. Erde [Tierra]
Austria, 2019, color, VO en inglés, alemán y español subtitulada al español, 115’
Tierra es un viaje analítico y desalentador por los paisajes que muestran la ferocidad del hombre contra la naturaleza por todo el mundo. Explotaciones que suponen la alteración radical del medio o la extracción de recursos a escala masiva sin mesura o visos de sostenibilidad. La mirada hacia la ingente maquinaria de transformación se entreteje con entrevistas a los propios trabajadores que la operan: “es una guerra contra la naturaleza” o “los seres humanos hemos excedido cualquier límite”, son algunas de sus declaraciones. La película es una de las grandes realizaciones sobre el extractivismo, un modelo de desarrollo intensivo que sustenta nuestro modo de vida y lo sitúa en una grave crisis existencial.
Mercantile Logic and Inconspicuous Care
Friday, 7 August 2020
The Pied Piper
Jacques Demy. The Pied Piper
UK and USA, 1972, colour, original version in English with Spanish subtitles, 86’
Presented by writer and editor Silvia Nanclares, author of the autobiographical novel Quién quiere ser madre (Alfaguara, 2017) and the illustrated children’s books La siesta (with Equipo Elático, Kókinos, 2006) and Al final (with Miguel Brieva, Kókinos, 2010).
The legend of the pied piper tells how a rat-catcher, able to attract these rodents with the sound of his flute, leads away the children of Hamelin as revenge against the non-payment of his services. Jacques Demy’s version roots the legend in history, situating it in the context of the Black Death in 1349 and the ensuing persecution of the Jewish population as a scapegoat. It also relates it to the historical conditions of the time in which the film was made, for instance the 1968 anti-militarism movement and student uprisings, turning the abduction of childhood into a kind of liberation. Could we interpret it in our present as an allegory for a health crisis that has viewed childhood as a “vector of infection”?
Saturday, 8 August 2020
La camarista (The Chambermaid)
Lila Avilés. La camarista (The Chambermaid)
Mexico, 2020, colour, original version in Spanish, 102’
Presented by activist and domestic worker Rafaela Pimentel, founder of the collective Territorio Doméstico, which works to defend the rights of female domestic workers, and María Villa, a cleaner at Madrid’s Gregorio Marañón Hospital and a member of the platform against the privatisation of the cleaning service in the same hospital.
The first feature-length film by photographer Lila Avilés, The Chambermaid is a detailed account, framed with much tact and intelligence, of the working hours of a young chambermaid in luxury accommodation in Mexico City. A portrait of an inquisitive, determined and ambitious woman is sketched through her silence, gestures and the expression of her career aspirations; conversely, disorder draws the world of the clients and their relationships. In the production of the film that which is normally visible becomes invisible, while feminised and precarious work is unconventionally foregrounded.
Caring for Life and Caring for Death
Friday, 14 August 2020
Moartea domnului Lăzărescu (The Death of Mr. Lazarescu)
Cristi Puiu. Moartea domnului Lăzărescu (The Death of Mr. Lazarescu)
Romania, 2005, colour, original version in Romanian with Spanish subtitles, 144’
This film explores the collapse of the healthcare system via the odyssey of a terminally ill man who fails to find comfort in any hospital. Mr. Lazarescu is an old man who lives alone with his three cats. One night, he feels unwell and calls an ambulance, but that same night a major accident has paralysed every hospital in the city. From dusk to dawn, the dying man and his nurse grapple with a chaotic and disjointed healthcare system, with its bureaucracy, prejudices and corruption. The tragedy and abandonment of old people at the height of the pandemic and the boundless determination of healthcare staff are reflected in a black comedy that is also a portrait of post-Communist Romanian society.
Saturday, 15 August 2020
Obit. Life on Deadline
Vanessa Gould. Obit. Life on Deadline
USA, 2017, colour, original version in English with Spanish subtitles, 95’
Presented by Susana Albarrán Méndez, social communicator, Vallecas neighbor and collaborator of El Salto Diario.
Obit. Life on Deadline is a passionate documentary on the obituary section in The New York Times, the only newspaper in the world to devote a whole section to the deceased, on a par with sports or the economy. The film documents obituary reporters’ meticulous process of researching and writing, the archive system and the paper’s policy on not only publishing the mandatory and customary obituaries of stars, but also articles on anonymous people who have made an unsung contribution to the community. The film underscores the footprint left by every life and its importance and right to be remembered, while also symbolising an homage to journalism: a humble, unyielding task, investing however long is needed to serve the truth.
They Wanted Us in Solitude, They Will Have Us in Common
Friday, 21 August 2020
The Brother from Another Planet
John Sayles. The Brother from Another Planet
USA, 1984, colour, original version in English with Spanish subtitles, 108’
This film narrates the journey of an alien lost in Harlem, pursued by outer-space bounty hunters, and focuses on the difficulties for the main character to communicate and his process of integrating from a place of difference in a strange yet welcoming community. Using imagery of slave escapes, science fiction and urban B-movies, and with an intelligent script flavoured with languid humour, John Sayles pieces together a fable on migration, racism, the difficulties of interacting and fear of the unknown. The film constitutes a tale of the hope of mutual support among marginalised communities. The Brother from Another Planet “is not a blueprint on how to save the world, but a warm, humane guide on how to live in it,” the writer Jessica Ritchey remarked.
Saturday, 22 August 2020
La libertad / Nacer de nuevo (To Be Born Again)
Laura Huertas Millán. La libertad
Colombia and Mexico, 2017, colour, original version in Spanish, 29’
Marta Rodríguez. Nacer de nuevo (To Be Born Again)
Colombia, 1986–87, colour, original version in Spanish, 30’
Closing concert by Julián Mayorga.
Two Colombian film-makers integrate this session dedicated to resilence and the will to live on despite the catastrophe.
In November 1985, the eruption of the Nevado del Ruiz volcano in Colombia killed 25,000 people and left another 5,000 homeless. The residents were temporarily offered shelter in Red Cross tents made available in a stadium, until they were relocated in new houses with their corresponding mortgage. A year later, María Eugenia and Carlos, deemed too old by a real estate company keen to safeguard its profits, continue living in the same tents. The film-maker captures the unwavering will of the old woman, and her humour and generosity, in a film that extols, above all else, the courage to keep on living, and even the courage sometimes required to die. In La Libertad, the artist and filmmaker Laura Huertas Millán focuses her attention on indigenous weavers from Mexico who compose their looms using an ancient pre-Hispanic technique. With this, these women establish an organic relationship with time, history, nature and, as the title of the short film advances, with their own freedom. Huertas Millán combines documentary rigor with a beautiful and poetic visual work.
After the screening, a concert by the Colombian musician Julián Mayorga, who works remixing popular sounds such as cumbia and vallenato, ends this summer film series.