viernes, 12 de febrero de 2010

Tracking Patagonia on Tour: Part 2 (Caleta Tortel)

In Caleta Tortel, we hold a screening in the local community center while rain pounds down on the roof. Children run back and forth restlessly across the gym floor while their parents watch patiently. A few groups of teenagers sit clustered in the bleachers, fascinated to watch as their tiny town is represented through foreign eyes.

We search for Jorge Arratia, the father of our dear friend Yoanni, a river guide who died in a kayaking accident a year after we filmed his interview. Yoanni’s death had added to the sense of urgency during post-production. The mission of returning the interview footage to his family became just as important as contributing to the dialogue about the dams.

Jorge is out in the woods for a few days logging cypress, but we finally catch up with him during our last day in town. He invites us in for a mate, and we find a pleasant surprise: an eleven-month old baby boy named Jorge Amaro. Eleven months old. He was born in the same month that Yoanni died. We sit together with the family, drinking mate and watching the documentary. When Yoanni appears on screen, I am not sure how they will react. Will there be tears? Should we have mentally prepared them for what they were about to see?

There are no tears. Jorge’s eyes shine with pride. Little Jorge Amaro is already walking and shuffles around between us. Perhaps he is seeing his big brother for the first time.

lunes, 8 de febrero de 2010

Tracking Patagonia on Tour: Part 1

After a full weekend of screenings in Cerro Castillo, we pack up a truck and head south to retrace our original route as far south as Caleta Tortel. In Bahia Murta, we stop to visit Werner and Ninoska, who generously fed us and put a roof over our heads during the arduous bike journey. Werner has grown out his hair and added rather large Patagonia Rebelde (Rebel Patagonia) flag to the barn. In Puerto Bertrand, the blue headwaters of the Baker River still shock me as if it’s the first time I’m there. The water level at the confluence of the Baker and Neff Rivers is higher than I’ve ever seen it before, and we stop to watch the sun set over the Neff valley.

In Cochrane, we crowd into the kitchen of Don Cecilio Olivares, one of our most memorable interviews and a 91-year-old pioneer of the Baker valley. He struggles to remember us, perhaps because my hair is shorter and Rob’s longer, but we open up my laptop on the kitchen table and press play. Don Cecilio sits at the table with his granddaughter by his side, and watches as he himself speaks the powerful opening lines. He nods his head and blinks with his characteristic intensity. His wife is cooking lunch on the wood-burning stove. She moves with the grace of someone who has undoubtedly spent thousands of hours feeding the fire, lived endless winters in a drafty house, and served countless rounds of mate to family and friends. Every so often she abandons the stove to watch a minute or two of the documentary, murmuring in agreement.

As the film ends, Don Cecilio turns to me. “These days, people are trying to fill up entire suitcases,” he says. “Back then, we were only worried about filling our pockets.” He raises his voice and gestures for emphasis. At 91 years old, Don Cecilio is still one of the strongest and most forceful people I have ever spoken to. And although he probably won’t live to see far into the future of Patagonia, he defends it with the strength of ten people. As we drive away, Don Cecilio and his wife stand in the door waving, his stare unwavering. In the truck we are all silent, each overcome by emotion in his or her own way.

martes, 2 de febrero de 2010

World Premiere: Cerro Castillo

It has been almost exactly two years since the Tracking Patagonia team rode bikes down the Cuesta del Diablo, a set of s curves in the Carretera Austral that descends from the top of the Cerro Castillo pass into the valley below. At that time, we were only a couple of days into filming and hadn’t even reached the end of the pavement. Today I am winding down those curves again, this time in a truck, and heading to Cerro Castillo to show the film that started here.

On Monday I stop into town to meet with people and try to find a way to screen the film during this weekend’s festival of cultural traditions. The film finds its way into the right hands, a local guide, who quickly radios the leader of the local organization in opposition to the dams. Within an hour we have a meeting of 8 people, who stop what they are doing in the middle of the day to come and watch. A couple of six packs of Crystal are thrown into the mix for good measure, and a plan is devised for three showings—one on each day of the festival.

Tonight, you could say, is our world premiere. Rob and I set up a theater at the very farm where we camped with all of our cameras and equipment during production. Felidor, who owns the farm and helped us weld a broken bike trailer, looks truly happy to see us again and throws us an asado (lamb roast). We hang a sheet up in the barn, fire up the projector, and pass around a carton of wine as people start filling up the haystacks and later spill onto the floor. There is snow falling up in the pass tonight, and rain falls on the tin roof while the cold seeps into the barn, takes hold of our feet, and slowly works its way up our legs and onto the tips of our noses.

I crouch in the corner and watch people’s faces as Don Cecilio speaks the final lines. Rob is smiling. When the credits roll we are met with applause. The wine carton is empty and rain still falls on the roof. I can’t possibly imagine a better way to premiere Tracking Patagonia.