How can we influence film communities from the outskirts? How can we create meeting points through cinema in our communities? These are vital questions for people like me, someone who is dedicated to working in cinema exhibition, research and programming in the city of Tepic, in Nayarit, Mexico.
Drawing links and bridges between audiences and films, under aesthetic and community atmospheres, is how I would describe my work. For five years, when I returned, I set out to challenge the lack and looting of art and culture in my region. To carry out this work with dignity, with the resources we have, we set up an itinerant cinema to intervene in squares, parks, and universities. We have worked at an annual festival dedicated to local cinema, which celebrates its fourth edition this year with experimental and archive cinema. Two years ago, we opened NAYAR LAB, an independent cinema in the center of the city with a permanent billboard that offers access to Mexican, Latino and auteur cinema.
But how can we get people to trust or to be interested in going to independent cinemas showcasing mainly Mexican films? This was already difficult in a small city, that for over twenty years only had cinemas where the consumption of hegemonic narratives is perpetuated, condemning entertainment and cinema to an experience in a shopping mall, with a large combo of popcorn and a soft drink in hand, avoiding reflection among audiences.
Since March, the situation has become even more complex. How can we survive in the face of this health and economic crisis? How can we transform our projects in the face of new circumstances? Today our survival is more uncertain than before, but #FortheLoveofArt and through networking, working within the community and by joining forces with other projects, we have found the energy and courage to continue reinventing ourselves.
I am impressed by the amount of film material and knowledge that has been released in recent weeks, by the number of festivals, premieres and workshops that I have been able to attend "remotely" – including Locarno 2020. I am sure that if it weren’t for the lockdown this would not have been possible this year. Even so, I have not lost hope that before too long, I will be in Piazza Grande waiting for the show to start.
I am open to change. Our project is even being planned as a hybrid digital and face-to-face experience. But it distresses me to think of ourselves today in our homes, accepting a “new normal” that consists of spending hours in front of the computer paying big companies subscription video-on-demand (SVOD). I refuse to believe that we won't return to cinemas anytime soon, or that face-to-face interaction and dialogue are a thing of the past. Many people claim that the internet could open up the possibility for more films to be seen, but I doubt it, due to prevailing economic inequality.
Cinemas are experiencing the worst crisis in decades. Independent spaces might not have economic resources, but do have the ideas and the strength to continue fostering critical and active audiences. We continue to resist amid the lockdown, but above all we continue to create dialogue through cinema, through art.