Hot Docs 2021 Female Director: Meet Anas Teresena – “Silence of the Mall”


Documentary filmmaker and producer Anas Taresena has screened at international festivals and universities, directing the short films “Los Madicos de la Monte,” “Entre Vosses” and “Desenerder El Ser”. “Entre Vosses” won the Public Award at the Amnesty International Film Festival in France, the Audience Award at the Pantalla Latina Film Festival in Switzerland, and the Best Short at the Bonbi Human Rights Film Festival in Panama. Participated in talent.

“Mile of Silence” is being screened at the 2021 Hot Docs Canadian International Documentary Film Festival, held April 29-May 9. The fest is digital this year due to COVID-19. Streaming Canada landlocked.

W&H: Describe the film in your own words.

This is: The “Mole of Silence” is a search for a hidden memory, a reflection of the silence that remains in our post-war country through the story of Elias Barahona, aka “The Mole” that penetrated the heart of one of the most repressive governments in Guatemalan history.

W&H: What drew you to this story?

It: Some stories go to us because they need to be told. First, I meet the brother of the documentary’s protagonist Elias. A year later, an Italian filmmaker and activist who was filming in Guatemala in the early 1900s gave me a film tape of an interview with Elias in 1983, in which he condemned human rights abuses and the formation of a death squad in Guatemala. Status.

In 2011, I met Elias for the first time and I gave him the film tape of his interview which he had never seen. We became good friends and one day he called me, asked me to film him and he testified in a case related to arson at the Spanish embassy in 1970, where a fire that police considered to be the worst killed in Guatemala’s 3-year civil war. Urban genocide. Elias died two weeks later.

His death was the inspiration behind this film, as it took me to the secret corners of a war-torn country and the silence that pervades its streets. What compelled me to tell this story was to try to understand the generation of my parents and, in particular, the generation of my father, a militant of the revolutionary movement who had been in exile for many years.

W&H: What do people want to think after you watch the movie?

It: I want people to feel a connection with the film because it is a deeply humane and sensitive issue beyond being a political film. This story told the story of the civil war in any other country

I want people of my generation – ages 30 to 40 – who live in Central America to connect with the film. My generation grew up with a lot of silence and historical gaps, so we had to recreate our own memories. Finally, I would like to share this with the public because my idea is that the history of Central America is marginalized in contemporary historical narratives.

W&H: What was the biggest challenge in making the film?

This: There were many challenges, I think the first challenge was to face silence and fear. I’ve talked to a lot of people who don’t appear in the documentary, who don’t want to be portrayed and who said they prefer not to talk about their militant past.

Then the other challenge is that the archive images in Guatemala are lost: either burned or rotten. The rest of the images of the war are rare, but many were filmed by foreign journalists. There are a few spaces to recover visual memory and those spaces work with limited resources.

The archives of TV news programs cannot be consulted – none – and when you contact an old TV channel they tell you that they have no archives. So, following images from the past was very complicated, which is why the search itself is part of this image

After all, making a movie in Central America isn’t easy – we had to be very patient. There is a small amount of funding as many filmmakers work without any money and the time it takes to make a feature film is much longer than usual. In our case, the crew of the “Mole of Silence” had to work at different stages.

W&H: How did you finance your film? Share some insights about how you made the film.

It was funded in: Documentary parts: We received international funding within six years. The project won a writing fund in Mexico and another in France, so I decided we would shoot the film with that money. The project then won other funds during documentary editing: we received an international fund in Canada and a Work-in-Progress Award in Costa Rica and Mexico.

The last funds were very helpful because we were able to finance the post-production of the documentary, which is always the most expensive part. We also received funding from the Guatemalan Ministry of Culture, but we are lucky because they only gave it one year.

In total, adding all the grants in six years, we received $ 30,000 to make the documentary. Of course, the actual budget of the documentary is higher.

W&H: What inspired you to become a filmmaker?

It: I’ve always been curious and inquisitive: Since I was a kid, I’ve been fascinated by digging into family albums, boxes of abandoned archives. My university studies were in political science, but I was always interested in documentary filmmaking. When I was in college, I watched a lot of documentaries and even got pirated DVDs to show and discuss with my friends.

I told myself I would love to make a documentary film but I felt I couldn’t do it – until I entered an editing and then a photography workshop. This is how I started filming and editing.

W&H: What’s the best and worst advice you’ve ever received?

This: I think one of the best advice is that there is no pre-determined way or format for telling a story.

I don’t know what the worst advice would be, but I think it’s a bad thing I’ve heard that only people who have studied movies can make movies.

W&H: What advice do you have for other female managers?

It: Encourage them, of course. Women want to tell stories or make movies, they should do it. They are not alone. For a long time, the thing that kept me from making films was that I didn’t have the courage; I had a lot of insecurities, also this industry is still very masculine and sexist. I think the fact that there are more women in this industry makes us feel more comfortable and felt with it.

W&H: Name your favorite female-directed film and why.

It: I like it a lot, I don’t like it because a lot of people inspire me. Many Latin American women have inspired me, such as Albertina Carrie, Lucresia Martel, Marcella Zamora, Angels Cruz, Tatiana Huejo. I also love Agni Varda.

W&H: How are you adjusting to life during the Covid-1p epidemic? You’re keeping creative, and if so, how?

This: It has been a very difficult year for everyone; We ended the “Mall of Silence” long distance because the editor lives in Mexico, so everything was slow. During these months, I was able to direct films in my neighborhood. With Epidemic, I’ve had a lot more desire to find footage and now I’m in the research phase for a short film using only the footage I found, but I’m in the early stages of writing.

W&H: The film world has a long history of portraying people of color on-screen and behind-the-scenes and connecting – and creating – negative stereotypes. What steps do you think you need to take to further integrate Hollywood and / or Dock World?

This: It’s important to talk about it, because we know that the industry is still mostly represented by white, middle-class men. But things are changing. It is essential to diversify the voices in cinema: we want more women filmmakers, more indigenous filmmakers, more young filmmakers. It is important to consider where the stories originated and for whom they were told.

There is a growing diversity among filmmakers in Central America – female directors, producers and photographers – but they are not given the same visibility or opportunities as mainstream filmmakers. In Guatemala, for example, the president has given men much more visibility than female filmmakers.

There are many young filmmakers in many community spaces who promote films and audiovisuals but are not given the same visibility as the older part. This is because there is a major bias that films made at international festivals are “second rate”.

It is important for the documentary world to change the methods of filming, to make them more collaborative and inclusive. There are still many documentaries that have been filmed in an extravagant way: some directors film in certain places but never come back, never even come to show the film and it is disturbing.


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