Mariko Plescia Makes a Short Film about Interning for the 2015 EDOC Film Festival
“What do we value more: our commitment to justice or our fear of the law?”
NSA whistleblower Edward Snowden posed this question to a full house the opening night of the 2015 EDOC (“Encuentros del Otro Cine”) Film Festival in Quito, Ecuador. May 21st at roughly 7 p.m. in Quito, 3 a.m. in Moscow, Snowden joined the festival via videoconference to discuss Laura Poitras’ film Citizenfour (2014). For Romance Languages graduate student Mariko Plescia (RL PhD ABD), who interned with the festival during the 2014-2015 academic year, this moment represented not only the culmination of much collaboration to secure the meeting with Snowden, but also a link between her research on Latin American documentary film and compelling contemporary politics.
After defending the prospectus of her dissertation, “The Politics and Poetics of Time in Contemporary Latin American Documentary Film,” Mariko wanted a way to gain professional experience in the film industry while also continuing her research. So, she contacted Cinememoria, the nonprofit cultural organization that hosts the EDOC film festival, and proposed a collaboration. With the support of her advisor Cecilia Enjuto Rangel (Romance Languages) and professor Gabriela Martínez (Journalism, Cinema Studies), Mariko was awarded the Dixon Graduate Innovation Award in order to pursue this year abroad.
From October through the culmination of the festival in June, Mariko participated in the day to day building of the festival’s XIV edition. As part of the programming team, she worked with directors and distribution companies in the process of incorporating films in the festival. Among other highlights were working in the video archives and collaborating with Manolo Sarmiento (Cinememoria, executive director) on a grant proposal for the EDOC Online Film Archive Platform, a project for which the UO Digital Scholarship Center provided significant guidance.
Mariko explains that working for the festival opened her eyes to the tense balance between the routine tasks and the decisive taking of political sides that go into crafting a cultural event like EDOC. True to the 2015 festival slogan, “Ver la realidad te cambia,” Mariko describes the festival program as impacting. The lineup revealed global instability, a sort of “champú caótico,” as the festival director describes: from Citizenfour and the Snowden revelations to We Come as Friends and neocolonialism in South Sudan, the films expose an entangled battlefield of global powers. Sarmiento states, “estamos saliendo de la hegemonía americana ya desde hace bastantes años y todavía no está claro quién va a ser el nuevo hegemónico, tal vez no lo haya . . .” (February, 2015).
On a note that dialogues with Mariko’s examination of ethics and time in Latin American documentary films, during the opening ceremony Snowden thanked Poitras and documentary filmmakers around the world, explaining, “we have a better world because of the work you do.” He also mentioned that he feels a “special fondness” for Latin America because it is one of the first regions “to stand up and say no, things have to change.” According to Mariko, Snowden’s audience was attentive and excited, abuzz with the significance of this conversation at both a national level and worldwide. Other memorable aspects of the festival included a master class with directors Alan Berliner and Hubert Sauper, leading Q/A sessions with directors Berliner, Firouzeh Khosrovani, and Mateo Herrera, and writing for the festival catalog and periodical.
Pulling together the festival experience with her research on Latin American documentary film, Mariko made a short film (El otro cine) about EDOC and its historical impact on the audiovisual field in Ecuador. Along with a small cinematic crew, she interviewed the founding members of Cinememoria, filmmakers, fans, and public functionaries in the cultural sector, including the director of Ecuadorian National Cinema Council and the rector of the National University of the Arts, Guayaquil. These conversations allowed Mariko to address her burning questions to the filmmakers and to better understand how the industry (from funding to distribution) contributes to the meaning of the films. El otro cine was shown as part of the UO, Oregon State and Portland State University Cine-Lit VIII International Conference on Hispanic Film and Fiction in February, 2014.
Back at UO, Mariko is busy integrating this rich period of research into her dissertation writing and looks forward to sharing her reflections on two Ecuadorian films at the American Comparative Literature Association 2016 Conference. She also continues to edit the interview material for a short video to incorporate in Spanish and Latin American Cinema classes here at the University of Oregon. Mariko says that after seeing Citizenfour she is more conscious of what she types into the google search engine; but thanks to Snowden and brave filmmakers like those represented at EDOC14, she is also more motivated to develop a strong critical voice through her work as a UO graduate student.