Voice cannot be restored to its rightful owners by writing them a script
A couple of months ago, at the local film club ‘Hugo del Carril’ in Córdoba (Argentina), it was presented a Spanish documentary film titled ‘Invisibles: Una sola mirada y cinco historias’ (Invisible ones: five stories but one only look), produced by Javier Bardem and directed by Mariano Barroso, Isabel Coixet, Javier Corcuera, Fernando León de Aranoa and Wim Wenders, which had recently won the Goya 2008 award for the best documentary film. In the review that appeared in the bulletin ‘Metropolis’ (Nº 55, April 2008) published by the film club itself, it could be read:
INVISIBLE ONES is a story of stories; an approach to those people condemned to obscurity by us; a wish to give their voice back to several people that fell silent by our indifference; a modest recognition for those ones that did never loose sight of them. But, above all, it is the willingness of five directors to turn visible the true and only main characters, people that we consider and like better as invisible.
I must admit that I did not like this presentation. I have become quite suspicious of hackneyed phrases such as ‘give voice to people without it’. Firstly, for I regard it as affected and secondly, for it is deceitful. I think of it as an expression that makes people believe something that is not true. For a start, I do not believe that people from the badly called and worse understood “Third World” are dumb neither I agree with the idea of returning their voice to them by writing them the words, together with the instructions for how to say them. On the contrary, many dialogues and monologues that appear in the quoted film only allow the “First World” to hear what it is prepared to.
In this sense, regarding the North American film industry, the Spanish film critic Carlos Boyero wrote two months ago (EL PAÍS, April 26th, 2008):
‘For some time, Hollywood has taken the third world and the old and never ending dirty tricks played on it slightly more seriously. It has done it with the best of intentions, making every effort to show a critical tone towards the disasters perpetuated by its colonizers, but never straying its attention from the gold-mines that are a box-office hit, the sacred conventions and the transparent or subterranean happy end’.
In an interview published by the same journal some weeks later (May 10th, 2008), the North American independent film director, John Seyles, also smiled before a label, ‘independent’, which Hollywood seems to like it very much lately:
‘It is a fallacy invented by major studios in order to save money. They create smaller divisions where cheaper films are produced, which are called ‘independent’, and with this excuse they can pay less to actors and directors. Nevertheless, as soon as it is decided that they are going to take part in the Oscar race, forty million dollars will be invested in publicity for the film’.
Jesús Carrión, who works for the ‘Observatorio de la Deuda en la Globalización (ODG, Globalization Debt Observatory) connected with the Polytechnic University of Barcelona, talking about the stock activism carried out by some NGOs, explained in an article (EL PAÍS, May 17th, 2008) that ‘the danger is that big companies use NGOs to legitimize themselves’. And this is what he stated talking of the Corporative Social Responsibility programs developed by Spanish multinational companies:
‘They make small donations but have great media power to achieve a publicity return on them while going on launching programs that destroy communities and territories’.
Uruguayan writer, Eduardo Galeano, in his last work ‘Espejos: Una historia casi universal’ (Mirrors: an almost universal story), under the headline “Americanos” (Americans) asks himself:
‘The official History tells that Vasco Núñez de Balboa was the first man that saw, from a mountain top in Panama, both oceans. Those living there, were they blind?
Who gave their first names to corn, potato, tomato, chocolate and to the mountains and rivers of America? Hernan Cortés, Francisco Pizarro? Those living there, were they dumb?
It was heard by Mayflower pilgrims: God said that America was the Promised Land. Those living there, were they deaf?
Afterwards, the grandchildren of those northern pilgrims took possession of the name and everything else. Now, they are Americans. Those living in the other Americas, what are we?’
(Excerpted from a partial on-line translation of Galeano's book into English)
Curiously enough, ‘Babelia’, the literary supplement of EL PAÍS published on May 26th, 2008 was titled:
To reinvent America
Madrid Book Fair gives voice to the new narrators [arrived] from the other side of the Atlantic.
Once more the ‘First World’ was writing the script for the ‘Third’, making us believe that they are dumb, blind and deaf. Once more the ‘First World’ was speaking of the ‘Third’ with a profound ignorance, since as I pointed out at the beginning of this post, the ‘First World’ never listen to what does not want to hear.
To my surprise, reading Simonetta Agnello’s words in a recent interview (EL PAÍS, May 17th, 2008), I found out that some places in the ‘First World’ cannot express themselves either:
‘It is a tragedy that the greatest part of what has been written about Sicily should have been written by foreigners not by Sicilians. There must be a reason’
Might it be related with the ‘First World’ making excuses for its own deafness by insisting on the ‘Third’ being dumb?