Journey within America

A Project between Art in Context (UdK) and Amerika-Gedenkbibliothek

What is America?

Is it a continent or is it two continents, is it the future or the past, is it violence or inaction? America is huge, diverse, ambivalent, contradictory, overflowing with boundaries and identities. However, more often than not, it is perpetuated as a rigid image with a single narrative. 

With the special collection Journey within America, we, five acteurs and activists in the art and cultural field representing different horizons of heritage, experiences, and privileges, propose a trip to that space-place-time that resists being defined. 

With the 7 films that make up this selection and that were produced between 2010 and 2020, we wanted to bring diversity and give visibility to different subjects and narratives of this space called America.

A woman displaced by war; an absent uncle whose non-conforming identity is newly revealed; two young Guatemalan women fighting against patriarchy; the people who daily battle for water; generations of Latin Americans who have not stopped dreaming and the Cumbia, that rhythm which never fades, are some of the characters in this film selection. 

Through them, we will discover the invisible but also the obvious, the scarcity and the struggle for survival, the hope that is often stolen but also the resilience of bodies that dance, love and fight together. Hand in hand, they take us on a journey through zones of oppression but also through libertarian spaces.

With this collection, we do not pretend to cover all the experiences, subjects, or narratives of the complex territory that is America. But our claim is that after having seen these films, you will no longer have any certainty of what America really is because there are infinite bodies that are transmuting and confusing, endless memories, multiple histories, and shared futures.

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La Sirga // The Towrope (William Vega, 2012)

La Sirga is a film about a landscape as a metaphor for inner anxiety and trauma after violence in Colombia. Succeeding her displacement, the main character Alicia goes through an inner journey against uprooting, trying to rebuild her identity. In the film, we can see the reality of many, that, like her, survived and fought to recover their lands and find themselves again. Although silence and tension dominate the narrative as anticipation of another armed struggle, we can glimpse transformations in the character’s inner worlds reflected in their surroundings and, through this, understand a bit more about the complexity of civil war.

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Mapa de sueños latinoamericanos // Map of Latin American Dreams (Martín Weber, 2020)

Using photographs he took years earlier, Martin Weber goes on a journey in search of the voices of people living in different Latin American territories who had posed for him with their dreams written on a chalkboard. Starting from the most intimate ones, this documentary confronts us with the lives and hopes of the personal testimonies and the challenges that are present in these diverse social and political realities.

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Memories of a penitent heart (Cecilia Aldarondo, 2016)

Memories of a penitent heart is a journey into family history; crossing generations and two continents, making graspable what an ”American” identity in the Puerto Rican-US diaspora can be. It’s a film about family history as an ever-morphing body of told and untold stories, identities, and realities. It is a story of denied and thus (temporarily) forgotten existences. 
The making of the film began when director Cecilia Aldarondo got hold of old family tapes, including footage of her uncle Miguel Dieppa, who died of an AIDS-related illness. Aldarondo embarked on a journey into her family history – to unravel the silenced past of Dieppa. The film doesn’t just depict a take on this particular family story but also sheds light on the ever-evolving nature of (queer) history. 

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Gunpowder Heart (Camila Urrutia, 2019)

Gunpowder Heart is a portrayal of modern post-war Guatemala from the perspective of two young women who have faced sexualized violence. Through their eyes, we experience sexism, racism, revenge, and resilience in this urban space. Their journey makes us understand the complexity and fragility of the human condition and the impact of violence and trauma on our psyche and bodies. Their ways of facing violence are not the same, yet both characters depict the fight of women against patriarchy.

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Water Path for a fish (Mercedes Marro, 2016)

In a drought-stricken village where people are struggling to meet their daily water needs, Oscar tries to find water for a small goldfish. The relationship between Oscar and the goldfish in the film is not only a reflection of how humans and nature can live in harmony, but the goldfish is also a kind of outsider who disturbs the tranquillity of the village and acts as a metaphor for the director's migrant background. The way the new settlers and the indigenous people live together in harmony constitutes another layer of the film's meaning.

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This is not Berlin (Hari Sama, 2019)

A nightclub "Atzec" opens up a new world for 17-year-old Carlos. Punk music, sex, and drugs lead Carlos and Gera into the world of nightlife, where they move from pleasure and confusion to find their way in life. This film reflects the path of the young Mexican generation in the 1980s as they grow from confusion to relief and finally to their identity. The film allows people to think about what art is, what politics is, the values of young people, and what society means to them.

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The Sucundún: making cumbia music (Jaime Edyardo Murillo, 2016)

A rhythm that goes beyond a territory. Cumbia travels from the Colombian Caribbean, passing through its mountains, crossing rivers and then oceans to meet other rhythms. From generation to generation, it always keeps its traditions and yet is always open to improvisation and fusion with local and international music. She is called the mother cumbia, a rhythm that never disappoints us.

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