I often ask myself, how does each of us weave our own responsibilities into the pattern of history? How can I tell stories about human rights and the quest for justice yet engage people who are uninterested or apathetic? And the answer has always brought me back to this idea of the persistence of vision. Just as in cinema, believing that we will create a new art, and with it the possibility of transformation comes from this concept of 24 frames per second that from static images (things the way they are) comes movement (change).
Profound communication only happens when there is persistence — staying committed to people and places where we once made films. In my case, 500 YEARS is the third film in the Guatemalan trilogy, which began in 1982 with When the Mountains Tremble and continued in 2011 with Granito: How to Nail a Dictator. 500 YEARS (2017) takes up the story where Granito left off.
Communication was the key for writing, shooting and making the movie, particularly this one. Woodpeckers explores communication and language in a very specific level. First of all the writing process was about making contact and understanding the prisoners, getting to create relationships, not only for the script but also because I wanted them as actors too. It was also kind of a social experiment, where I was exposed to very dangerous situations and prisoners, were the only way to stand out and be safe was communicating with respect and openness. But the core of the story was the sign language, called woodpecking, this is the medium which the prisoners use to communicate between one cell and the other. As filmmakers we wanted to use it in the movie as real and accurate as it is in real life, also learning how to use it and discovering that the essential drive between us humans is communicating, expressing, and showing ourselves no matter what, where and how.
Manifesto was originally planned as a 13-screen installation for the art context. And so it is touring museums and art festivals now. But I also got some funding from a German TV channel and I needed to consider how to bring that multi-screen-concept later into a linear version. Given the fact that we only had 11 days to shoot with Cate, the entire project, running in my mind parallel on two different tracks, turned out to be a tour de force for everybody involved. Certainly Cate outstripped us all with her immeasurable enthusiasm and commitment. How do you make dozens of highly complicated texts by furious young artists into performable material for a film?