Paula Gaitán: Acid Portraits

The body of work of Colombian-Brazilian filmmaker Paula Gaitán is one of the most radical and uncompromising to appear in Latin America in the last 30 years. For one week, four films by Gaitán will be available completely for free. In collaboration with Sheffield DocFest 2021.

Free with email registration from May 28 - June 4, 2021.

And it is a body of work in every sense of the word: Gaitán’s films are ever in the present tense, ever occupied by the forceful movement of a human body in and through a space; a background in poetry and the visual arts seemingly setting the stage for a performative, mutant, and highly material cinema. In this mini retrospective, we find first four and later five very different portraits of individuals and collectives, minds and bodies, each of the portraits characterised by a formal restlessness that we find consistently in Gaitán’s work.

Uaká, from 1988 – here in a newly restored version –, is a kind of experimental ethnography that delves into the Takumã indigenous universe – in the Xingu region of Brazil – with a material, dreamlike and sensual intensity untypical of films with an apparent similarity to it. Gaitán's films and her extreme sensitivity to the contours and movements of bodies, objects and, in turn, of her own images, appears fully formed in this early classic about the Takumã universe. Days in Sintra narrativizes the absence of filmmaker Glauber Rocha, Paula's ex-partner, in the Portuguese city where they once lived. Paula conceives images of Rocha own photos, where both his simultaneous presence and absence seemingly spreads through the details of each shot. Here and elsewhere, Gaitán’s cinema prefers flurries of minor sensations to studious constructions and transmissions of information and elucidation. Hers is a tactile and sensual cinema, exemplified perhaps above all by Night Box and Subtle Interferences. Here Gaitán, in two alternative portraits of musicians – and also artists, dancers, and performers – further refines the sonic quality of her films, taking direct responsibility herself for the sound editing and cinematography. Each are immersive experiences in the most extreme and literal sense of the word.

Finally, presented on DAFilms on June 14th following its Sheffield DocFest premiere, is Riverock, an intimate, epic encounter with sociologist and musician Negro Leo. This essentially 157-minute monologue by Leo that navigates a veritable ocean of ideas and asides on Brazilian culture, politics, and on his own life and work is punctuated too by moments of overwhelming sensuality: music, dance, sniffing, sneezing, blunt camera movements and reframings, and the most elemental kind of voice performance. Paula Gaitan is an artist of enchantment. Her art is in making all things – people, words coming out of a mouth, dark night clubs, sunny living rooms – hypnotically present – an extraordinary present-tense cinema.

Curated by Juliano Gomes and Christopher Small, members of the Selection Committee at Sheffield DocFest.

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