Translated by Sara Sandoval
Ambulante Beyond (AMA in Spanish) is Ambulante’s training project, which objective is to train filmmakers from different corners of Mexico and Latin America so that they can tell their own stories through documentary cinema. The students of AMA, after having been selected through a call, participate in a practical-theoretical one-year workshop divided into several modules, giving as a result documentaries of great quality.
The lineup of the 2018 Ambulante Film Festival includes the most recent feature-length film produced by AMA, We Are Always Walking (dir. Dinazar Urbina Mata). The short films made by the fifth generation of AMA were presented during this year’s edition of Ambulante in the state of Oaxaca only, since they are in postproduction: The Sound of Waves (dir. Vanessa Ishel Ortega Castillo), Nendok Between Lagoons (dir. Juan Ernesto Regalado Morales), Tita, Weaver of Roots (dir. Mónica Morales García), Rojo (director María Candelaria Palma Marcelino) and Weck: Words Are My Voice (dir. Aldo Arellanes Antonio).
In an interview, Carlos Edil Torres García, from the fifth generation, shares his experience as an AMA student.
How did you find out about the existence of AMA? And why did you decide to participate?
I learned about the call through a friend, who has been like my teacher in many ways. He insisted that I participate, and he sent me the call. When I reviewed everything calmly, I thought, “Yes, of course, that’s for me”. I already had in mind a small story that caught my attention, that of Modesto Ibarra Torres, and that was what I proposed in my application. Of course, I spoke to Modesto before filling out the form, I told him about it and he loved the idea.
I already had a story, so we started with that.
Before participating in AMA, did you have experience in audiovisual production?
With that same friend -the one that recommended AMA to me-, I learned to make amateur documentary, because he also wanted to make a documentary. We made a documentary in my community called Mascaritas in Dispute, and that was my first one at an amateur level; we didn’t have much knowledge, just the basic things we had seen at school.
And once you were selected for AMA, how were the modules and the workshop process?
AMA works in a very particular way. I had previously taken a documentary film course by CCC con Patas here in Oaxaca, which consisted of two modules in ten days. In contrast, Ambulante has one-week modular classes, each month for a year. That is, each month there was a week of intensive classes, from eight in the morning until we were too tired to continue. In the classes, we address topics such as setting up a tripod, the parts of the camera, the cinematographic language, interviews, sound design, design of spaces, character description… In the end, all those topics were developed over time. It was a whole year, from February 2017 until the beginning of 2018.
In which projects of the fifth generation of AMA did you participate? And what was your role?
Out of the projects that were proposed by our classmates, only five were chosen. I was a part of one made in Pinotepa Nacional called Weck: Words Are My Voice, which is about a rapper with dwarfism. And in that shooting, that lasted twelve days, I was in charge of production, photography and then, editing. I was also in another one that was made in Acapulco called Rojo, where I did cinematography.
And what happened to the Modesto Ibarra Torres project, which you had originally proposed?
This project was somewhat complicated. The story of Modesto was very difficult, because he had a conflict with his brother, with his family, who were fighting over some lands. Because of that, five years ago, Modesto left his community for Puebla to avoid problems. He was exiled for five years and then returned to clear his name, but because of that conflict, he lived locked up in his house with his family, his wife, his daughter, his grandchildren. I proposed that story, unfortunately, he was killed, and I lost my main character. For that reason, nothing could be done about that project. That’s why I was on two other AMA projects.
Out of everything you learned during the workshop, what was the most important lesson, in your opinion?
There are many, but I mainly learned how to work in a team. I’ve always been a little more solitary, and so I had to get rid of some fears. I was able to do something meaningful for people, both for those who give us their time, their space, their history, and for the people who will watch the film.
I think that I take that with me: working as a team and getting rid of my trust issues.
Is there any anecdote about the workshop that you would like to share?
I always talk about my friend Aldo [Arellanes Antonio]. He is a person who has left a mark on me. I did not know how to rap, but he is a rapper, and he got me into it. He is the director of Weck: Words Are My Voice. The fact that he transmitted that love to rap… I thought, what a beautiful way to convey how important rap is to him. Throughout the workshop, I entered the culture of hip-hop, and then, I just clung on to. That is the best anecdote: meeting Aldo and all my classmates. They all contributed something.
After all this process, and screening the films in the festival, what’s next for you? Are you going to continue making movies?
Yes, because I already have that stuff in my gut. In fact, we have some plans with some classmates to do some things. As I told my colleagues, “If I stop, I’ll drown in my mind, in my head, in my solitude, and I do not like that.” That’s why I’m doing things constantly, I’ve just arrived and I’m already working. I’m going to continue making movies, of course.
In your opinion, what is the power of documentary cinema?
Documentary cinema is a powerful tool to transmit feelings that derive from reasons, which can be interpreted in many ways. I believe that documentary films have the capacity to enter the intimacy of a person, like an anthropologist or a sociologist, but through feelings.
Documentaries have the ability to persuade people with very sensitive fibers, and that makes the difference.
Why would you recommend other people to participate in the call for the sixth generation of AMA?
I would recommend it because, if you like documentary cinema, Ambulante is a very nice way to be able to experience it and to meet people who are also interested in developing this audiovisual language. Many of those who are inside Ambulante do it out of conviction, they do it because they like it, because they want to -they do it with love, which is the most important thing. I think that is what our current educational system lacks: things should be transmitted with love. That generates that people reflect, acquire knowledge and can transmit it with that same sensibility. I would therefore recommend AMA, because it is a space where the vibes are felt, where anger, rage, love and union are felt, which is the main thing. During the workshop you will run into your own fears and you will get rid of them collectively, and that is the coolest thing.