Luis Argueta, cinema committed to the migrant cause
Photo: Iván Lara
Unlike many filmmakers, Luis Argueta (Guatemala, 1946) lived without much imagination until he got to know the world of cinema. Accustomed to not questioning his surroundings, he remembers that as a boy he was fascinated to escape the prohibitive dynamics of home to get excited by the images and sounds that surrounded the room of one of the two cinemas that were near his house. But it was no more than fun for him.
Until the inertia of not questioning what was happening in his life led him to accept a scholarship to study Engineering in the United States and, already in this country, everything changed.
“There was a university parallel to mine where they gave super 8 courses, where we glued those little pieces of celluloid; So I left engineering and studied literature ”, he recalled.
And, suddenly, “I found the affinity that I can tell things no matter how absurd it is. And that great freedom to express myself makes me fall in love with the cinema and I discover that more than art it is a craft ”.
Photo: Iván Lara
This anecdote of how the Guatemalan got into the seventh art was shared by himself during the Master class, in a dialogue with the Guatemalan director Izabel Acevedo.
Argueta indicated that Living in another country gave him a look that contrasted with the one he had in his early years in his Guatemala, one that allowed him to understand how the country was subjected to a political division, motivated by the intervention of the United States.
That critical gaze found an outlet in his cinematographic art and in 1977 he presented the documentary The cost of cotton, in which he documented the migratory reality.
“I interviewed two or three people (who worked in the cotton fields) and they told me that they were paid something like 50 or 75 cents on the dollar. I asked them why they did it if they were earning so little under such difficult conditions; they tell me ‘from something to nothing makes a lot of difference’ ”. He explained that that phrase resonated with him for years.
“On that shoot for the first time I met migrants and 30 years later they are people who accompany me today.”
This documentary is considered a classic, which allowed to see characters in the cinema with the Guatemalan accent and history.
Later, Argueta devoted himself fully to advertising, which allowed him to create a landmark work of Guatemalan cinema: Neto’s silence, which according to Izabel Acevedo “is the classic that allowed us to see characters in the cinema with our accent and story”.
Being a film she would answer about, the Government of Guatemala labeled her a communist and she was persecuted.
During the first decade of 2000, Luis Argueta decided to take his camera and go find and interview migrants to give an account of their stories, which he has uploaded to his YouTube channel, he said.
“I decide to tell the stories to show the human face of migration and get away from the statistics. I did not know information about migrants, but people: men, women and children who could be anyone ”.
Luis Argueta says committed to the cause, which continues to be made invisible and subdued by governments and criminal groups throughout the world.
He says he is optimistic that the future of Guatemalan cinema is transforming, so that the world looks at its filmmakers and the seventh art in this country continues to grow and show more realities.