Free showings of El General, Jan. 23, Al Otro Lado, Jan. 25 &
El Velador, Jan. 26
Two additional documentaries by award-winning director Natalia Almada, whose work addresses the history and politics of Mexico from the perspective of ordinary people and everyday life, will be screened in advance of her upcoming visit to Watkins College of Art, Design & Film, where she will discuss her latest film, El Velador.
El General will show on Monday, January 23, at 6 pm in the Watkins Theater, and Al Otro Lado on Wednesday, January 25, at 6 pm in Room #804. Almada will be on hand for the Thursday, January 26, viewing of El Velador as part of the Watkins Visiting Artists Series.
Almada’s January 26 appearance will kick off with a reception at 5:30 p.m., prior to the screening of El Velador (“The Night Watchman,” 72 min.), at 6 p.m. in the Watkins Theater. A discussion and Q&A, led by Watkins assistant professor of art history Tom Williams, will immediately follow.
All screenings are free and the public is invited.
Almada’s work draws attention to overlooked narratives in such challenging concerns as immigration reform, border issues and human rights, while representing a significant contribution to the tradition of lyrical and personal documentary filmmaking. In films such as El Velador (2011) and Al Otro Lado (“To the Other Side,” 2005), a cemetery in Northwestern Mexico or the popular narcocorridos (“drug ballads”) become prisms for understanding the scope of the Mexican-American drug trade and the wars that it has spawned. In El General (“The General,” 2009), she uses her own family history—her great-grandfather was the revolutionary-era president Plutarco Calles—to address the history of nation that is, as she claims, living in the shadow of the past. These films not only achieve a remarkable gravity through their subject matter, but they also dramatize the effects of world-historical events on the lives of individuals far from the centers of power. While taking on controversial issues, these films manage to address their social and political content from a sympathetic and humanizing point of view.
“Natalia Almada’s films are among the best examples I know of ‘history from the standpoint of its victims’,” said Professor Williams, who met Almada during their time at the Whitney Museum Independent Study Program. “She consistently addresses some of the most important events of our era, but she does so with remarkable sensitivity and without ever losing sight of the people that they affect. We will all be honored by her visit and lucky to speak with her about her work.”
About the Artist
Recipient of the 2009 Sundance Documentary Directing Award for her film El General, Natalia Almada is director/producer/DP/editor of El Velador (2011), which premiered at New Directors/New Films and the Cannes’ Directors’ Fortnight. Her previous credits include All Water Has a Perfect Memory (2001), an experimental short film that received international recognition, and Al Otro Lado, her 2005 award-winning debut feature documentary about immigration, drug trafficking and corrido music. Almada’s films have screened at the Sundance Film Festival, the Museum of Modern Art, the Guggenheim Museum and the Whitney Biennial, with all three feature documentaries broadcast on the award-winning series POV. Almada is a MacDowell Colony Fellow, a 2008 Guggenheim Fellow and a 2010 USA Artist Fellow. In 2011 she was named one of five annual recipients of the Alpert Award in the Arts, given to “creative experimenters who are challenging and transforming art, their respective disciplines, and society.” She graduated with a Masters in Fine Arts in photography from the Rhode Island School of Design, and shares her time between Mexico City and Brooklyn, New York.
Synopsis of El General (83 min. – 2009)
In 1910 a revolution erupted in Mexico, among its rallying cries “the right to vote.” Nearly a century later “Sufragio Efectivo” is heard again as thousands take to the streets. Through the legacy that filmmaker Natalia Almada inherited as the great-granddaughter of Mexican president Plutarco Elias Calles (1924-1928), one of Mexico’s most controversial revolutionary figures accused of having been a “Dictator,” “Iron Man” and “Nun-Burner,” yet also acclaimed for having been the “father of modern Mexico,” El General is a portrait of a family and a country under the shadow of the past.
Synopsis of Al Otro Lado (66 min. – 2005)
An aspiring corrido composer from the drug capital of Mexico faces two choices to better his life: to traffic drugs or to cross the border illegally into the United States. From Sinaloa, Mexico to the streets of South Central and East L.A., Al Otro Lado explores the world of drug smuggling, illegal immigration and the corrido music that chronicles it all.
Synopsis of El Velador (72 min. – HD – 2011)
From dusk to dawn El Velador (“The Night Watchman”) accompanies Martin, the guardian angel who, night after night, watches over the extravagant mausoleums of Mexico’s most notorious Drug Lords. In the labyrinth of the cemetery, this film about violence without violence reminds us how, in the turmoil of Mexico’s bloodiest conflict since the Revolution, ordinary life persists and quietly defies the dead.
El Velador is a co-production of Altamura Films and American Documentary | POV in association with Latino Public Broadcasting (LPB), with funding provided by the Corporation for Public Broadcasting (CPB).
To download press kit/high-resolution stills, go to www.altamurafilms.com
The Watkins Visiting Artists Series is an annual year-long program which welcomes nationally and internationally recognized fine artists, designers, filmmakers, educators and critics to the campus and the community. Through the generous support of the Memorial Foundation, this year’s series expands last year’s 125th anniversary series of three lectures by presenting four lectures in the Watkins Theater plus an exhibition in the Brownlee O. Currey, Jr. Gallery.
The series kicked off in November with Mexican printmaker Artemio Rodriguez. Remaining events are:
- February 9, 2012 – Visiting Artist’s Exhibition with David Hilliard, photographer
Remarks at 5:15 p.m., opening reception for Highway of Thought, 6 to 8 p.m.
- March 29, 2012 – Harrell Fletcher, interdisciplinary artist
Reception at 6 p.m., lecture begins at 6:30 p.m.
- April 26, 2012 – Alec Soth, photographer
Reception at 6 p.m., lecture begins at 6:30 p.m.
Updates to programming for each artist’s visit will be posted to the Watkins website (Watkins.edu/VisitingArtistsSeries).
Watkins is located at 2298 Rosa L. Parks Boulevard in MetroCenter; free parking is available in the campus lot. For more information, visit Watkins.edu or call 615-383-4848.
The Watkins Visiting Artists Series is made possible through a grant from the Memorial Foundation and is sponsored in part by Marché Artisan Foods.