Landlocked and sparsely populated, Paraguay is a small country with a small national cinema. Hemmed in by Argentina, Bolivia and Brazil, the nation’s geographic isolation has been aggravated by almost two centuries of authoritarian rule, culminating in the Alfredo Stroessner dictatorship that lasted from 1954 to 1989.
This isolation in time and space is the context out of which, and against which, filmmaker Paz Encina works. Encina (b. 1971) began her career as an editor for Paraguayan television and studying cinema in Cuba, Argentina and Paraguay. Her debut feature, Paraguayan Hammock (2006), a hypnotic tour de force of “slow cinema,” was the first Paraguayan film made in 35mm since the 1970s. Its international success similarly marked a historic moment for Paraguayan cinema.
Over the past few years, Encina has been working with the “Archives of Terror” left behind by the national police of the Stroessner regime. This research has culminated in Encina’s haunting second feature, Memory Exercises (2016), documenting the disappearance of a 1970s dissident and the subsequent effect on his children. The disjuncture between sound and image that characterized Paraguayan Hammock now informs juxtapositions of the mug shots of political prisoners with recordings of police interrogations. Taken together, Encina’s feature films describe a two-sided, Janus-faced consciousness that both remembers the horrors of the past but also looks forward with hope and just a bit of humor.
Memory Exercises / Ejercicios de memoria
Paraguay/Argentina 2016, DCP, color, 70 min. Spanish with English subtitles
Special event with Director Paz Encina in person