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Film focus: ‘To the Amazon’, a life story

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Photo: Casa Tarántula

Photo: Casa Tarántila

Photo: Casa Tarántula

To the Amazon’, is an investigative journey in search of happiness, or perhaps truth. Co-director, writer and producer Clare Weiskopf, who has twice won the Simon Bolívar journalism prize, now turns her gaze to her nomadic mother in the Colombian Amazon (a country she has been exploring for over 50 years), taking us on a journey through time as we enter deep into our protagonist’s history and emotions. Through monochrome photos, home videos, and intimate interviews recalling the family’s shared past, we learn about Valerie’s understanding of freedom and motherhood. Rebecca Wilson reports.

Alongside her partner, Nicholas Van Hemelryck, Clare presents Valerie’s ongoing youth, the men she fell in love with, her fitness and health as an older woman, how she learnt to travel, to sell her handicrafts, to be self-sufficient. But what’s really striking about ‘Al Amazonas’ is the intimacy: the use of a camcorder makes the film more personal and takes no beauty away from the shots of subjects amongst incredible nature. The intimacy in the childhood memories recalled by Clare and her brother, Diego; and in the way Clara can question her mother: “Why do you think we’re making this documentary, Ma?” “Why do you think Diego is like this?”, “Tell me about my birth”, “Can you admit you made some mistakes?”

Their story is unique, inspiring, sad. Valerie sings her compositions while strumming her cuatro,  taking us through the different landscapes she has traveled and bringing us closer to understanding her emotional experience. From 50’s and 60’s London to the tolimense Ortero, from the English countryside hippie lodge to to the now ghost-town of Armero, from British karaoke parties to a rowing boat in the deep Amazon, and from the urban jungle of Bogotá to the selva Valerie almost calls home, there are no final affirmations. Val has lived her life as it came to her, how she thought right. Clare has inherited her mother’s sense of survival, Diego, her search for truth, but what have any of them learnt from their history? How do these notions twist and tangle on the family’s journeys across rivers, oceans, generations? And how does the relationship between freedom and responsibility reflect that of mother and child?

‘Amazona’ won best project at Colombia’s FICCI international film festival in Cartagena, honourable mentions at BAM (Bogota Audivisual Market) and won funding from Edinburgh pitch, the Colombian Film Fund and from Tribecca Film Institute.

Read the director’s note, to understand how personal this film really is and why it is captivating viewers.

Casa Tarántula

Casa Tarántula


Featured image: Casa Tarántula.