September 20, 2014
Claudia G Covarrubias
Cine Bajo el Cielo, Open Air Cinema Foundation, Mexico
Photos by Claudia G Covarrubias
I would like to share a lovely life experience I had with Open Air Cinema Foundation. I am convinced that this work is more than cinema, more than entertainment, more than culture, it is the act of sharing in the full sense of the concept. I am talking about feelings, emotions, thoughts, ideas and knowledge. I am glad to say that thanks to the gaze of a child I can understand all those meanings.
In México we have been screening events with CineBike, a human-powered cinema. This time we visited San Cristobal de Las Casas, a small town nestled in the Highlands of Chiapas, a beautiful valley surrounded by mountains with an amazing cultural richness. There live together creoles, mestizos, indigenous and people from many latitudes. We can say it is a cosmopolitan town in the poorest, offline and underrepresented communities in Mexico. It is for these reasons that we chose this place for our first outdoor cinema events.
There was a protest camp in the main square of San Cristobal de las Casas, a large group of farmers were protesting the dispossession of their lands by the government. I believe Cinebike is a great tool for social protests, to inform the population, and to support free access to information. So, without hesitation we decided to introduce ourselves to the farmers.
The farmers told us of defending their land with strength and conviction. They were happy we would perform a screening in the open air, under the stars, in the square they had been occupying for months. “We sow, harvest and work the land for our living and now they want to take it from us,” said Gumercindo, one of the young people who would not stay silent in the face of social injustice. So, they received us in their “temporary home” and helped us to set up the “cinema.” Once it was ready we started peddling and projecting. The people approached curious to see a bike that generates electricity and projects movies. Foreigners and Mexicans, without distinction of classes, all were welcome because there was no right of admission, all were joined together in the same space and time.
Many children approached, one of them around 6 years old watched carefully without blinking. He was a very humble child and had escaped the care of his mother who was at one of the corners of the square selling chewing gum and cigars.
His name was Diego and he had never gone to the cinema or to the school. He helped his mother sell every day at the square. He was worried his mother might yell at him if she knew he wasn’t selling candies and cigars, but he didn’t want to miss the screening.
An animated short film started, as the the first images came out Diego applauded happily. He approached and asked me: “What is the name of the movie?” I answered him, “The grandmother cricket.” It is about the fight of the Bolivian people for their right to free potable water. The film is based on a legend, an old woman cricket is exiled from her land for invoking the rain with her song.
Diego began to laugh, enjoying the animated characters—they are animals with human characteristics. For some reason I inspired confidence in him and while the film played he began to comment on what he was watching.
At some point the story becomes tragic when the grandmother cricket is captured. A corporation decides to sell the water she magically produces from singing. She becomes enslaved.
The tears of pain and sadness of the grandmother cricket became real and tangible. When I turned my sight toward Diego, I saw some tears rolling down his cheeks. That image will be in my mind forever. “What happened?” I whispered to him. He answered me with his eyes watching the screen: “Why do they do that? She gives them water and they ill-treat her? The world is unfair.”
When I listened to him, I just could embrace him and say, “We can change the things, keep on watching and you’ll see.” I tried not to cry as much as I could but a few tears escaped.
He didn’t detach his sight of the screen until the short film ended. The grandmother cricket had been liberated by people who had realized their mistake. The water flowed free for everybody.
Diego breathed relief, he looked at me and pointed toward the farmers “they will be happy too” he said. A big smile covered his face. The credits were rolling when he took me by the hand and told me, “The next time you come, I will bring my mom and my little sister.”
After that he stood up quickly, took his box of candies and cigars and ran away.
Since that day I realized that film and the work of Open Air Cinema Foundation will be my motor and inspiration to believe that this world can be better.