THEY MADE US THE NIGHT
In 1974 the Dolores Cyclone flooded the town of Charco Redondo and its inhabitants were forced to go into exile and found a new community. Four decades later, the Salinas Tello, an afromestizo family, lets us enter their privacy, while preparing the town's patronal celebration. Through them, we learn about their daily lives and “They made us the night” draw a sketch about their identity, marked by tonales, devils and cyclones.
They made us the night began to take shape in 2014, when Fabián Salinas, after seeing the documentary “Vestiges of Paradise” approached Antonio to talk to him about the Hurricane Dolores. Fabián was interested in telling the story of the foundation of his community after the catastrophe caused by Hurricane Dolores, and he considered that Antonio Hernández and his experience in the region was the one to make this documentary a reality.
Shortly after, Antonio and Fabián traveled to San Marquitos with the intention of making a first approach to the town, the region and the daily life of its inhabitants who carry a collective trauma that, in their own way, they try to face and overcome. In the director's words:
“The theme that fascinated and intrigued me in Fabián's proposal was the struggle of man against nature. With that interest, we traveled to make a first audiovisual record and that was when I met Fabián's family, the legends, their tonals, and the family commitment to be the mayordomos that year. I collected material, Placido was the one who began to guide the exploration, by order of his mother, he had to investigate in the voice of each one of the founders of the town, the history of the Hurricane. At night Doña Romualda reinforced her interest when they lit the fire under the stars, and through oral tradition and her legends, she shared with her descendants the origins and mystical explanations surrounding the history of the hurricane. Adonis, Doña Romualda's grandson, was the youngest and most restless of the family, and much of the family pressure falls on him; on the one hand, the pressure to preserve traditions, and on the other, their search for identity and position in the family nucleus. I found in this family a small universe that portrays an entire region; Afro-Mexicans, and their low social and political visibility. Due to the way in which I was received by the family, I decided that with the documentary I had the great challenge of portraying them from the most beautiful aspects of their daily lives; such as its resilient past, dreams, desires and commitments to its history and its community.”
When the call for the Ambulante Fund and the WK Kellogg Foundation for the production of documentaries focused on the black population and culture in Mexico was announced, the documentary was already in process. Our first challenge was to find the elements in the documentary so that, without sacrificing the approach, we could organically fit in with the requirements of the scholarship.
One of our constant reflections was that we were not able to define what Afro-Mexican culture was and where the limits were. In a theoretical way and based on academic texts, we could discern what was “Afro-descendant”, what was “Mixteco”, or what was “indigenous”. We found it more interesting how in everyday life these elements were mixed naturally and that it was not necessary to emphasize them, since they were present all the time; in food, in beliefs, in traditions.
It was for this reason that the bet with the documentary was not to underline cultural differences, but to look for the elements that contributed to identify ourselves with them. We find this anchor point in the family and the dynamics that take place between the members. In this family intimacy we find the values, problems and sensations with which any Mexican, Latin American and even global family could feel identified.
Another point that was decisive in the conceptualization of the documentary was the creative and personal search of the director, who wanted to move away from an anthropological perspective. At this point, he had the task of telling the story of the Hurricane and the founding of San Marquitos, but his greatest interest was family dynamics, and how his identity was built in this daily dynamic. We noticed that their culture could be perceived in the aforementioned: food, dances, parties, but that it was built in a more powerful way in the collective imagination. At the beginning of the shooting, the bet was that it would be through the story, the speech and, in general, the oral tradition, the way to reach this collective imaginary. That is why we decided that the history of the Hurricane would be more interesting to build from the interview, the story and the memory of those who lived through it.
It was a great surprise to realize that beyond the story and memory, this event had merged with other elements of culture and, through the collective imagination, had been sublimated to become a founding myth. The culture surpassed us as filmmakers and we understood that the story and the oral tradition were a form of transmission, but that the true source that keeps this culture alive is gestated in the imagination.
With these ideas in mind, we scheduled the recording with the Diablitos . The iconography of El Diablito , the dance and the creation of the masks had impacted us from the beginning and we wanted to include this element in the documentary. We chose to make an authorial proposal around these; an oneiric and fictitious sequence that ended up breaking with the formal limits of documentary and fiction. As the montage progressed, we realized that it was a way of approaching the construction of the imaginary that we had become aware of and that we could not resolve through oral tradition. In addition, we had the ideal character to be able to justify this fictional universe in the documentary proposal.
With all of the above in mind, we had a final stage of recording, which we titled “In search of the marvelous real” in reference to Alejo Carpentier and his vision of a magical realism generated from Latin America, which he called “Lo Real Maravilloso”.. In the film, these scenes will appear as daydreams of Adonis and of a world that reinvents itself based on what he hears from his elders. In terms of production, these moments are the vision of the filmmaker and our cinematographic proposal to capture an approach to how these imaginaries are built and kept alive.
This has been a project that has been developed with patience, observation, reflection and, above all, with great affection and gratitude to and for the family that allowed us to enter into their intimacy, their community and their worldview.