It’s true… they are invisibles for me too. At the beginning I react catching my breath. Then my throat starts trembling. While the shorts keep on going, I start crying. Then I stop. Then I breathe again. The amount of information I receive in such a short time is so condensed and sad that I lose my sensibility. Then I don’t cry anymore, like them. At the end I’m still touched, but I want to see the light again outside the theater. I want to grab a coffee, a chocolate, and live my life again. Now I write about them… tomorrow I will be one more of those millions who don’t want to see them. They aren’t invisibles by nature. We make them invisibles.
No words can describe real tragedy; no images can show the dimension of losing somebody we love. Luckily, suffering people aren’t invisibles to all the world. Doctors Without Borders deal with them every day, and Javier Bardem, who was one day researching in Africa to create a new character, was so affected that he decided to do something. His company Pinguin Films produced Invisibles, that first screened in Berlin Film Festival and is now impacting in Tribeca. Thanks to the awareness campaign that this group is carrying on, all these unnoticed tragedies are trying to wake up a world that is accustomed to the terrifying power of mass media and disrespectful use of death. The documentary explores just a few of a vast list of social problems in Africa and Latin America. The millions of persons living without media and political tools in our oblivion, are raised to the world with a unique voice after being muted by a lack of caring. It’s also a homage to the incredible groups of doctors, NPOs and volunteers who refused to avert their eyes.
Letters To Nora, by Isabel Coixet opens the film with a story about a Bolivian woman living in Spain, where she is far away from her hometown Chagas — and sudden death disease. However, the eighteen million Latin Americans exposed below the line of poverty can’t find a cure, simply because there is no laboratory in the world producing a medicine or even remotely researching about it. Well, that’s understandable: the 1,800 weight-loss-related patents pending are more profitable. It’s so difficult to believe that it would be a great plot for a science fiction movie, but unfortunately it’s a documentary. “Remember when we were kids and played to be invisibles? It used to be fun… now I feel I am invisible”, explains Nora’s sister in a letter. The paradox is that Nora is a nurse, a housekeeper and a baby-sitter. She helps everyone, but nobody helps her. If her people die, although she sends money from Spain to help, I wonder how much more she could help were she in Bolivia. Invisible vinchucas to my eyes, so far away that I can’t see it.
Wim Wenders travels to Congo to portray Invisible Crimes . He does so in a very particular: They appear; they disappear. Now you see them; now you don’t. Is it magic? Is it a game?… The Maï-Maï rebel militia abuse the women with such a cowardice and impunity that it also tempts policemen and official military government. All of them with sticks and weapons, while the women carry heavy loads from town to town working for their families. Sorry to insist, but this is not a box office tale, and it’s not a grammatical mistake. They kill the women’s husbands in front of them; they rape the mothers in front of their kids for days; and if they don’t escape, crawling to survive while their genitalia still feels the hurricane, they are dead by now. However, they survive. They don’t cry; they don’t feel; they don’t hope; they are… invisibles. An association of “sisters” helps the victims of these savage abuses to talk, to fight, to not being ashamed, to go to the hospitals. They sing with no enthusiasm, defeated because they helped only 346 women. I don’t differentiate numbers anymore. 346 or 3,460 has the same effect. I used to be good with numbers. The boys used to be good in school, but the war turned them into violent and untouchable animals, kings of the jungle. Lions.
Not everything is lost: there are other kind of leones, like Fernando León de Adanoa, who directed Good Night, Ouma, probably the most moving short of this series, about the child-soldiers of Uganda. The Noah’s Ark night commuting center for kids from 7 to around 14 years old is a symbol of hope and salvation. This time the Ark it isn’t about keeping two of each species but a bunch of frightened kids that don’t feel safe at home. So when the time for nightmares approaches, they go almost naked, provided just a blanket, to a place where they can be together, laugh a little, share experiences, and sleep. Though not everybody can conceal a happy dream: one of them dreams about crying because he feels guilty of what he has done to others while being a soldier. He doesn’t cry when he’s awake. Nobody cries in this documentary except the audience. If the kids are trapped and kidnapped by the rebels of this war that has lasted more than 20 years, they are sent to combat or traded as slaves for a few guns.
Also a rehab center for ex-soldiers, the center only works until 6:30 a.m., when it’s time for the kids to go back home. Strange that I wish to be a kid again, and they wish to be adults, so nobody can kidnap them. These “gorillas”, as the rebels call them, are stronger than adults and fearless. They kill easily, as in a game. The center coordinator is the father of all of them. Millions obliged to fight, 180,000 casualties, and an urgent call for aide, with the first tears in the film: please, help…
I drink another sip of juice while I think how could I help. I find no explanations. Even if I had the power to arrange these words in a beautiful way I still would feel empty. Although if you watched Invisibles instead of Vinchuca-Man III we would be now two feeling empty, then four, until a big emptiness and desolation could wake us up from our ignorance.
At least we don’t have the sleeping sickness as Bianca has. In an unusual way Mariano Barroso shows a conversation between an NGO and a pharmaceutical executive in Bianca’s Dream: eflornithine — commercialized as Aventis Ornidyl® — is used for hair removal, a more profitable use than curing cancer or bringing an African from coma. Luckily for the labs, a five-year agreement for donations has just finished, so they are transferring their knowledge to the next victim-lab. Only one lab? I don’t get it. What’s going on with the research in this world? Oh, I remember… the 1,800 weight-loss patents… the vitamin colored waters. Water used to be invisible.
Javier Corcuera’s The House Of Stones closes the suffering and brings us hope: In fifteen more minutes we will return to normality out of the theater — but not before being affected by the displaced Colombians who during four years were persecuted, killed — then camouflaged as guerrilla! — for doing social work on land rich in oil and emeralds among other things. The Democratic Security destabilizes the zone while an assembly of brave peasants resist. Where are the martyrs? Where are the remnants of El Encanto (The Charm) going? Probably to the humanitarian zone… a place with no weapons where people still believe in a future. Probably to their original lands. What would do a peasant without fertile ground? Nothing else than die. Like their sons in the military service. The names of the victims lie on stones. They can take their bodies and lives… but not their dreams.
The media, the techniques, the cinematography, the aesthetics, the way to tell the story, no matter if it’s beautiful or boring, smart or common… all is justified in this document that bears witness to all kind of atrocities. Including the indifference that makes the victims invisible.
Last chance to see it: Wednesday, May 2, 3:30 p.m. (AMC Kips Bay)
(See Upcoming Events for details.)