High Museum of Art: Films


Looking Forward: Oblivion by Linda Dubler
July 21, 2009, 5:13 pm
Filed under: Film Series: High, Top Picks | Tags: , , ,

In anticipation of the High’s upcoming Latin American Film Festival,  (September 25 – October 31), I’m going to be offering in-depth looks some of the 12 films included in this year’s event.  The second film in this year’s line-up, showing on Saturday, September 26, is one of my favorites.

Oblivion was directed by the Dutch documentarian Heddy Honigmann, who was born in 1951 to Holocaust survivors in Lima, Peru. She is an internationally celebrated filmmaker whose Forever, a portrait of the denizens of Paris’s Pere Lachaise cemetery,  was shown as the High as part of French Film Yesterday and Today. Here is her director’s statement and two clips from Oblivion. My review will follow later this week.

Heddy Honigmann

Heddy Honigmann on Oblivion:

If Lima, the capitol of Peru, were to be covered in dust, the city would be invisible. But it’s not and yet hardly anybody ever notices it or gives its people, cheated and neglected by their rules for centuries, any thought.

It takes an earthquake registering 8 on the Richter scale, or the recent discovery, in the most desolate mountains of Peru, of one of the largest mass graves in the history of the dirty war between the Peruvian army and the guerilla movement Shining Path, for the country to be noticed for a few days or weeks.

In Oblivion, Lima represents all other Latin American cities, whose seas or mountains are graveyards. Horror is omnipresent: in its streets, bars, hospitals and neighbourhoods. But the country isn’t “hot news.”

Reminiscence is a recurring theme in almost all of my films. With Oblivion, I wanted to create a poetic celebration of this forgotten city and its people.

A few years ago it was a waiter, at work in a fancy restaurant, who was the inspiration for the rediscovery of my city. This waiter, whom I recognized after many years away from Peru, told me how he had survived humiliation and hardship by smiling. Others manage to hold up their head by silently making fun of the class that oppresses them, remembering with pride that they have survived both economical crisis and political terror from both sides. And some survive by entertaining car drivers with acrobatics, hoping for a few coins.

All my characters are first-class actors. Hardly any of them have ever been in a museum. Nor have they heard of Marcel Proust or Maria Callas, yet all the people you’ll meet in Oblivion are born poets.

Oblivion doesn’t scream at you, it whispers. Oblivion doesn’t sob, it just cries.

Oblivion takes a flight over the forgotten city; like a bird it lands here, stops there, looks around, talks, listens, flies away again and finally turns into a crystal ball that a young man keeps in perfect balance, thereby defying anonymity.


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