Festival de cine INSTAR

Hojas de K', an urgent film. Interview with Nicaraguan filmmaker Gloria Carrión



Still from 'Hojas de K' (2022); Gloria Carrión (IMAGEN hojasdek.com)

'Leaves of K.' (2022), by Nicaraguan Gloria Carrión, braids into a single voice the testimonies of several Nicaraguan women repressed by Daniel Ortega's regime during the massive protests of April 2018. In the first days of December, the Central American filmmaker added this collective truth to the cries of creative freedom gathered in the official selection of the IV INSTAR Film Festival -which culminated the day before with the awarding of the documentary Mafifa (2021), by Cuban Daniela Muñoz Barroso.

The absolute silence in which totalitarian states dream of submerging the divergent positions and representations of their monochord version of reality will always be challenged -and, in the long run, defeated- by those discourses that escape in the wind, like light leaves.

Through Messenger and WhatsApp came the answers of Gloria Carrión to my questions about the process, motives, and consequences of the clandestine pages written by the plural protagonist of 'Leaves of K.'; those that have managed to slip through the repressive walls to reveal other versions of reality: the underlying faces behind the frozen smile that the regime presents to the world.

K. is a collective body represented as a young student. Are all the testimonies compiled from teenagers and young adults? Or did you also include those from other generations?

Most of the testimonies were given by young women. They ranged from teenagers to young women up to 22 or 23 years old. I interviewed a total of ten. Only two of them were older. One was about 40 years old, and the other was 30. They all were involved, in different areas of the country, in the civic protests of April 2018.

I met with each of them, either in person or virtually. We were in the same country, but some lived in other areas. Others could not leave their homes because they were under police siege. I found them through the grassroots feminist and human rights organizations I was cooperating with. It was through them that I made the contacts.

The truth is that I was living in Nicaragua at that time; we were all living in Nicaragua. And I communicated with all of them. However, when I finished the last interview, I realized that my think tank, where I was working, was being persecuted. I could no longer continue conducting interviews.

In fact, I was going to film a documentary series on the April civic uprising before I left Nicaragua. I couldn't do that anymore. And I took the testimonies with me in my suitcase. I had three days to leave the country because of the repression, and when I left and managed to unpack, I remembered that I had these audios. And animation became the only possible way I could find to tell this story.

Most of the creative team of K. Sheets uses pseudonyms. What are the dangers of revealing their names?

Most of the creative team uses pseudonyms, and they risk being victims of state persecution themselves, [and also] their families, and even forced exile. In Nicaragua, the situation is so terrible because of the repression and the state violence that having participated in a short film like this can have very big consequences, even jail. Because now, no one is exempt from ending up in prison for saying or doing things that contradict the government's version of what happened in 2018.

Poster of 'Hojas de K.' (2022). (2022); Gloria Carrión (IMAGE hojasdek.com)

If any team members still live in Nicaragua, can it be said that 'Leaves of K.' is a "co-production" between physical Nicaragua and diasporic Nicaragua?

It can definitely be said that 'Leaves of K.' is a co-production between physical Nicaragua and diasporic Nicaragua; no doubt about it. In fact, I began to conceive it and finished it while I was already in exile, collaborating with people inside the country. That is certainly true, and I think it's also a testimony to the resilience of Nicaraguan filmmakers who, like Cuban creators, try to make films and tell stories despite adversity and political persecution.

Do you identify any creative influences from film or other arts in ‘Leaves of K.’?

Well, literature definitely has a huge influence on my work. I love poetry, I love it, but I also love narrative. I read a lot. In fact, I got into cinema through literature, and I don't think I've ever left it behind. It has always been like a ground of great inspiration, a personal creative world; it is part of my creative constellation, of my creative universe.

The title and the visual structure of the film resemble a diary. They are like sheets of paper written in secret, passed around, and exchanged through the bars of the cells. The idea was to give this feeling of a personal diary, a diary of personal memory. Undoubtedly, I find a lot of inspiration in literature. I also find a lot of inspiration in painting. I like the impressionist school very much, and there is some of that also in the way stains and colors invade the screen. I dialogue a lot with painting. My works have a kind of plastic element, I think, that I always like to explore. I love to delve into these frontiers between the arts and to be a bit disobedient. Never very purist in anything.

Still from 'Hojas de K.' (2022); Gloria Carrión (IMAGE hojasdek.com)
Still from 'Hojas de K.' (2022); Gloria Carrión (IMAGE hojasdek.com)
Still from 'Hojas de K.' (2022); Gloria Carrión (IMAGE hojasdek.com)
Still from 'Hojas de K.' (2022); Gloria Carrión (IMAGE hojasdek.com)

'Leaves of K.' is an animated film. What advantages and/or obstacles have you faced when participating in festivals and distributing it?

I think the fact that 'Leaves of K.' is a documentary animation sometimes makes it difficult to present, especially at festivals or more traditional spaces for documentary exhibitions where documentaries are still considered as something with a linear or traditional structure. So, it has been hard to move it in those spaces.

People have questioned the fact that I consider it a documentary and I think that has a lot to do with a conversation that's happening more but that is definitely worth continuing: all genres are becoming contaminated.

Because the truth is that everything is staged. I don't believe much (I distrust a lot) in documentary representation as an image that can reveal the truth. For me, the truth does not exist as a monolithic matter. To me, it seems to be more complex than that, and also believe it is in this contamination, so to speak, between genres and between the different ways of telling stories because it is very similar to life, to something that flows, something alive, there is not just one way to tell it. I think it has a lot to do with what I was telling you about the disobedience of the form that attracts me so much. And, above all, it seems to me that it has the seed of freedom in itself.

I am very much looking for that: being able to write, to tell stories, and to narrate in freedom, from freedom, and for freedom. And even more so in a context of persecution and political adversity. This seems very important to me. At least, it gives me a lot of strength and desire to continue telling things, resisting through stories, cinema, and art. I think it is fundamental to stay alive.

Has 'Leaves of K.' been screened in Nicaragua. Has it been distributed in any way in your country?

It has not been screened in Nicaragua. There has been no way to distribute it because of the tight control, but also because, to a certain extent, I feel responsible for the team that worked with me. And the truth is that I don't want to expose them to any repercussions or anything like that, so we have not taken the steps to distribute it in Nicaragua yet.

But I hope that, at some point, we will be able to do it because I would love for this film to be seen in Nicaragua. It is a fundamental film for the country and also for the region, especially in the context of the rise of authoritarian governments that are sadly gaining ground. I think it is a very urgent film.

You can read the original note here

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