“We, Guaranis, consider ourselves a nation without frontiers; my work is to show through movies, what territory means to us,” explains filmmaker Ariel Ortega, whose name in Guarani, means “Sun Ray.”
Invited by the Cartier Fondation for the Histoires de voir: Show and Tell exhibition, open through October 21, Ariel expresses his enthusiasm about sharing his reality, “Guaranis live in Paraguay, Argentina and Brazil; many people still do not understand our situation on those territories.”
Ortega’s movies, Guarani exile (2011), Two villages one path (2008 best documentary award at Minas Gerais Festival), and The bicycles of Nhanderu 2011, offered the Parisian audience an indepth perspective into the present of the Guaranis.
Twenty seven year old Ortega started making films in 2006, at the age of 21, attending “Video nas Aldeias,” (Videos in the village) the Brazilian movie school for Natives.
Raised in Argentina, with Guarani as a first language, he attended a bilingual Guarani Spanish school. Presently residing in Brazil, in the village of Koenju, a 45 family community of 200 members, in San Miguel das Missoes municipality, he has acquired, despite his young age, the status of leader of his community, Mburuvicha, perpetuating the father-son tradition of leadership, from his grandfather Dioniso Duarte, a renowned leader and activist for Native rights.
Ortega’s documentaries reveal the life of the Guaranis from the inside, giving voice to the elders about the ancestral beliefs, and visions of the Guaranis. “My documentaries show our difficult reality – politicians refuse to dialogue with us. They think Guaranis will not participate in the progress. Where I live, very little territories are recognized as ours. They refuse to give us back our ancestral territories, and prefer to offer them to enterprises.”
Ortega insists on how hard it is for Guaranis not to be able to cultivate the land: going through various communities, he interviews the people on their present difficulties, and hopes, “we have a huge capacity to adapt; and despite difficulty, we have maintained our spirituality. When the Jesuits arrived from Spain, and Portugal, they thought the Guaranis did not have a God, and wanted us to adopt their religion: our leaders accepted the Jesuits, but continued the practice of our traditions.”
Today, Ortega is preparing a movie about his grandfather, 92 year old Dionisio Duarte, “I want to break the prejudices about Indians; since 2007, I visit colleges, to change the teenagers visions of Natives, and establish a dialogue with the students: it works, it really betters their vision.”
His movies screened in festivals, in New York, Europe, on public TV in Brazil have won numerous awards.
Among his brothers, and six sisters, one brother followed his path in filming; “Guaranis like movies a lot and understand how important it is for us. My project is to set up a workshop for children, to teach them how to use the camera.”
But today, Ortega’s main focus is spirituality, and his future project will be devoted to those issues. “Spirituality is very alive, still, among our communities; when a child is born, the leader dreams and gives the name to the baby. Not the parents. … I want to show, in my films, how the Guaranis live their spirituality, and the creation of the world, according to our vision. In order to achieve this, I have to listen, and tape the elders; as they will die. And we have to keep those records for our children.”
Filming for Ortega is quite extensive, in order to edit and finalize his documentaries he has to fly six hours to Nas Aldeias, in Olinda, as his team only has a few cameras for equipment.
“My dream, is to set up independent video equipment in our community. Despite other people’s opinion, we use equipment “foreign” to our cultural background – those tools are useful to keep our culture alive, and to empower us. Filmmaking means everything to me.”