Colectivo Los Ingrávidos: Rapturous Dissent
28 January 2024
As a programmer, I found the prospect of creating a focus programme on the Mexican Colectivo Los Ingrávidos somewhat intimidating. Their work is well known in certain festival circuits (i.e. those with a tendency towards the avant garde), they have produced a massive volume of work (over five hundred films across twelve years) and the work is challenging (both intellectually and visually). But when one world premiere after another, each excellent, made their way to my viewing list, I felt a call to tackle this difficult programme to discover what new dialogues could be generated about their work here at IFFR. The result exceeded my expectations in every way.
The two programmes were developed in dialogue with the Colectivo. At first, I wanted to mitigate the visual intensity of their work, to break up the fast cuts and heavy flicker with quieter pieces, to offer respite to the mind and eyes. But the Colectivo resisted: “this work is made in a violent country, it comes from a place of assault, it is not meant to be light”. It was clear: this is not a body of work embedded in the language of the culture industry, or laden with the corrupting influence of capital and ‘entertainment’, this is a body of work that stands alongside real human bodies in resistance, in peril and in ecstasy. They capture the historic and contemporary political context of a country rife with corruption, conflict and violence, but also brimming with spirituality, solidarity and tradition.
The films are arranged into two programmes, one with a more activist focus, the other slightly more ecstatic (though such a distinction is in many ways unsuitable to Los Ingrávidos, who always blur the two). In the Land and Resistance programme, we begin with After América (2021), a structurally simple film for the Colectivo, it sets the tone of the programme by elegantly pairing together the audio from a museum tour of “The Americas” with CGI images of the Mars Rover. Implicit in this juxtaposition is the enduring fight over land that has been the defining struggle in post-Columbian mesoamerica and that Los Ingrávidos are often exploring. Seeds (2024) uses frame by frame images of maize seed, iconic to the region, to enter the viewer into a meditation on food and sovereignty, while Itzcóatl (2013) uses a roving Lomokino camera to investigate Tenochtitlan, the epicentre of Aztec Mexico City once famed for brilliant development and innovation, now a tourist attraction. Coyolxauhqui (2017) is just as painful as it is poetic, as it captures the site of femicide: the land, sky, flora, fauna and forgotten evidence of this heinous crime.
This programme also includes many works that focus on contemporary protest culture within Mexico, often led by peasant farmers and deeply embedded in indigeneity. Batalla (2019) and Tear Gas (2019) are both reflections on the deadly 2014 paramilitary police attack on student protestors. 2024 is an ominous anniversary for that event, considering that in 2022 Amnesty International declared that “the right to protest is under threat in Mexico”. Notes for a Déjà Vu (2021) imagines the film Jonas Mekas would have made had he travelled to Mexico to capture a peaceful demonstration, and through his penetrating melancholic words we are reminded that protests are embodied memory through public action.
The Incantations and Invocations programme shifts the viewer's awareness from the mind to the body. Colmillos (2024) imagines the souls of animals conjured by their remaining teeth, while Ritual (2024) allows us to worship the sun, a force of life so powerful that staring at it – without the camera as an intermediary – would cause our corneas to crack and blister. Sensemayá (2021) picks up some threads left loose by Itzcóatl, but this time the film is much more sinister in its demonic distortion of the hapless holidayers unaware that their home movies would one day become the stuff of spells in pre-Christian worship.
The programme closes with Tierra en trance (2022), a near forty minute long opus of dense saturation that incorporates some of their most masterful in-camera multiple exposures. The best way to watch the film is to dissolve into it, to allow yourself to be consumed by the rapturous images of a land that is far away and strange, and yet so immediately identified by its iconic environment, regalia and icons. Tierra en trance means earth in trance, and it brings together all the threads cast out by the works of both programmes: a transcendent connection to earth is the germ that propagates in our hearts and brings us to great acts of solidarity with human and non-human kin. A manifesto of the spirit, a far more difficult terrain for conquest than even the surface of Mars.
If the descriptions of these programmes, and the films contained within them are intimidating, then allow me to assure you that, though these films are challenging and require a great deal of attention and thought, they are also extremely masterfully made and beautiful to see. Colectivo Los Ingrávidos have developed an aesthetic in sound and image that is completely their own. Vibrant colours layered in countless exposures of positive and negative, high-contrast and graphic use of black and white, swift camera motions that you feel in your body, exacting edits that would fatigue even the most experienced editor and sonic collaborations that carry or counter the sumptuous images (which you can experience live in our sound//vision programme of their film Tonalli (2023) with live accompaniment by Codarts students). Through these challenging programmes you are invited to experience moving images beyond idle occupations of the mind and into the realms of all things earthly, ethereal, powerful and poetic.
By Cristina Kolozsváry-Kiss