March 21, 2010

The Journey (Fernando E. Solanas, 1992)

Argentina has one of the most important cinematography in the world. Within that cinema, Fernando E. Solanas is a director of seminal importance. In his essay, Towards a Third cinema, Solanas and his co-writer, Octavio Getino, galvanize the overall revolutionary ideas of the time into the concept of a decolonization cinema, denouncing the weak, liberal arts that have, up until then, played into imperialist hands:

“The anti-imperialist struggle of the peoples of the Third World and of their equivalents inside the imperialist countries constitutes today the axis of the world revolution. Third cinema is, in our opinion, the cinema that recognizes in that struggle the most gigantic cultural, scientific, and artistic manifestation of our time, the great possibility of constructing a liberated personality with each people as the starting point – in a word, the decolonization of culture. ”

Although The Journey is filmed a fair amount of time after the essay was written, we can still recognize those concerns in Solanas’ movie. In it, a teenager, in search of his father, visits Latin America while meeting strange and wonderful characters. There is a sense of a unified Latin America in the movie, as if it were one country, one people. Martin freely travels from Argentina to Mexico, experimenting with the specifics of every region along the way, from the Strait of Magellan to the ruins of Mexico. That same sense of unification seems to have inspired The Motorcycle Diaries (Walter Salles, 2004) but where Solanas applies a poetic style to convey its message, Salles uses a conventional, more Hollywood-like style.

One of the most attractive aspects of the movie for me is the main character’s visit to Peru. The Andes have always fascinated me. To see Martin walk up those hills and meet with its people was a pure pleasure. The Mayans and Incas were very advanced civilizations that were ruthlessly decimated by European colonizers. It’s an open wound on Latin America, one that, even now, has not been allowed to heal. Even though Solanas is Argentinean, he understands the impact that colonization and slavery have had not only on his country but on Latin America as a whole. The Journey is an attempt to explore that and begin the process of healing.