agarrando pueblo (1977)

“After the 1970s, the representation of poverty became a true issue for Latin-American cinema. And that is why a film like Agarrando pueblo—of amazing relevance still today—is so significant. Better than any other, this film foresaw the requirements demanded by the world of power for portraying poverty as a spiritual export good destined for rich people throughout the world to take a peep at a poverty far detached from them.

Some may say–and rightly so–that this film made by Mayolo and Luis Ospina remains current today, no one can refute that; representation of poverty still convinces, touches, and is good to get funds. This is still going on now, decades later, just as it did in 1978. Perhaps nowadays there are a few differences, things that back then would have been completely unconceivable. Back in those days it was enough to simply show Latin-American people as the destitute children of universal dearth. The idea was to establish a glance which would raise a high dose of pity and some pretended moral outrage.

And though the current political relevancy of Agarrando pueblo is completely out of the question—the pornographic depiction of poverty has established a recognizable aesthetics of its own—the true genius in this classic film of disobedience lies on the way it questions filmic representation as such. By establishing a separation between a documentary register in black-and-white and another one in color—supposedly, this latter is the film being shot by some Colombian filmmakers for a German TV channel—Mayolo (and Luis Ospina) gobble up this divide in their own film and saturate the devise right to its chore. An extreme close up on Mayolo’s eye peeping through a hole becomes a pivotal point and first warning about the intrusion of fiction in the realm of documentary (and vice versa); this shot is followed by the arrival of a remarkable character who not only reacts to the fraud committed by the fabrication of an aesthetics of poverty but also introduces himself as a sign of the destitution of any principle of purity in any form of representation. To film and to represent always entail an arrangement of truth following an order built upon elements rooted in the collective imagination. In this sense, the participation—at the end of the film—of a homeless man (real or not) alters the epistemological contract between the viewer and what is being presented on the screen. However, this is no hindrance for glimpses of truth being shown through the way the staging of the farce is put into action.

An undisputed master piece of political cinema, it shows a humorous lack of political correctness, as well as an impious discourse and a formal finesse which are normally absent in both satiric and denounce films. An example of it are the decisions in terms of the frames used throughout the film’s last sequence, which represent a whole introduction on the subject which any aspiring filmmaker should take into account.”

Agarrando pueblo

Agarrando pueblo


twitter conversation @rovanwil @duckrabbitblog @PhotoSoupORG @JohnWMacPherson #regardingthepainofothers

@rovanwil: does art as a social commentary stop being justifiable when money is being made? discuss.

@duckrabbitblog: Easy answer. No.

But if you ask me what if someone took a picture of one of my children dying and then sold it as a limited edition print

I would say they are scum.

And by doing so they destroy trust. That’s the currency that fuels a lot of important social commentary. And art.

@rovanwil: totally agree. maybe problem lies partly within journalism as an artform, things get mixed up

@duckrabbitblog: Maybe. I do think when you start seeing people as objects that can be sold you’ve lost the plot.

And I think that goes both for journalism and art.

: so what about ‘artists’ photographing their parents going thru terminal illness? Those pics end up for sale in a gallery too

there seems to be some kind of validation coming from how subject and photographer are particularly related

same with children photos, its ok(ish) to expose your own children but not others that you are not directly related to

so the problem seems to be not the image but who presents it…

@duckrabbitblog: As limited edition prints? I’d find that quite hard to get my head round, But that’s a very different example.

Well that’s a big thing. A relationship of trust between people. Also some equality. Nahr is taking advantage (imo).

Kids need protecting from parents too sometimes. We don’t always act in their best interest,

: yes or as unique artworks, but normally the images are on the tender and emotional side…

Big difference between ‘stranger’ selling pics of dying, and decision made by ‘family’ to share such moments.

@duckrabbitblog: right. So there’s a different kind of engagement.

: at the end the problem (if there is any at all) is to get some financial reward out of pain/suffering/death be it your own

or as Susan Sontag said (regarding) ‘the pain of others’

Disagree. I’ve had to confront smwht similar (personally) & decision was about ‘story’ & legacy for my son.

 have met artists that have done it+respect their process, it can help others going thru similar situation

: For sure. But that is not what is going on with Nahr’s pics.

Take this Haitian woman two days trapped. Legs will be amputated when she is rescued.

Dominic Nahr. 2010

She prob thought she was dying while Nahr photographs her. Totally helpless. Now she’s a limited edition fine art print.

 everything needs to be analysed on a case by case basis but it’s important to challenge the ‘anything goes’ paradigm

: That makes sense to me.

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