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Isidro Guerra

Color Film
Original version : Spanish (Mexican) - Zapotec / Subtitle : English
Director : François Daireaux
Editing : François Daireaux
Sound : François Daireaux
Mix : Gil Savoy

Extrait 35’

The natural time of a long now
Text by Philippe Saulle

François Daireaux has the demanding nature of someone receptive to the world, and the infinite patience required by a gentle form of empathy, a powerful but tender gaze at our crazy world. The central character of this film is Isidro. In simple, clear speech, he broaches every question shaking our contemporary world: the scandalous, toxic supremacy of globalized multinationals and financialization, the cultural catastrophe of religious proselytism, the danger of climate change and displacement, the vicious cynicism of overfishing, the folly or ignorance of discrimination on the grounds of gender, race or ethnic origin, pollution, overconsumption and of course the terrifying throes of nature, with its angry storms, floods and earthquakes.
The artist’s eyes wander over time, without acceleration or effects, capturing slow movements in the grey and green waters of the Pacific shores, or the market crowds, and staring with unusual insistence at Isidro in his green hammock, his body a heavy, immovable sculpture. He returns regularly to his land and its legends, its struggles and tragedies. We have the impression he is telling us the story of a long-gone age in a world where time does not get lost but drifts away in simple gestures and mindful senses. François Daireaux’s film does not dilate time. It is natural and unhurried, unlike time in our cities, where music, images, memory, knowledge, speech and so much more is compressed. In Alvaro Obregon, a fishing village in the Isthmus of Tehuantepec, south-east of Mexico City, time goes by normally, naturally.
The landscape is filmed flush with the horizon on these immense lagoons where solitary fishermen spread their nets. The fish are rare. In the distance loom the ghostly wind turbines that have stirred up protest. The sight and sound of the calm water on which hesitant birds seem to be treading furtively, standing tall like the perches of dry wood casting fragile, sombre lines on the grey-blue ocean. Sometimes in the evening light, the water becomes a crackling screen with white noise verging on abstraction. A single man is walking in the water. These solitudes alternate with Isidro’s voice. We hear the sound of the lagoon, almost a natural silence, and once again his calming voice. In the half-light of his run-down house, he continues his tale. Are you filming?
The vital importance of elders handing down knowledge to the younger generations. The sparrowhawk, a variety of traps, and long nets that need to be checked and mended daily. Days spent fishing. The seasons. The weather. Time. The moon. The winds. The current. Colour and the memory of water. The wind once again. Men in the water or on land with the same ease, the same calm.This is how we work.
Mexico is populated with ancient myths and age-old beliefs. Chimeras imprisoned in vast caves, telluric mysteries, fantastic tales, unspeakable realities and unbearable truths. General Heliodoro Charis Castro, born nearby in Juchitan de Zaragoza, sometimes returns in Isidro’s words, a hero of the Indian resistance against a panicked central power at the dawn of the twentieth century during the infamous Cristero War. Still today, the headlines announce that in Alvaro Obregon, there have been violent clashes between the locals and the police. The authorities were attempting to lift the blockade preventing the construction of a 140-turbine wind farm on the sacred lands of the Huave people.
Alvaro Obregon is a small, quiet village of orthonormal streets lined with low houses, worlds away from the urban violence of the capital’s suburbs. François Daireaux switches between this calm reflected in the shadow of Isidro’s eyes or the light of the water, to the colourful din of crowded markets, with their blaring speakers and doomsday shouters. A cow is slaughtered. The artist zooms in on the wounded flank, blood flowing into the dust. The animal’s slow death fades into the background. Between two of the artist’s trips to Mexico on these sacred waters, a powerful earthquake reached more than 8 on the Richter scale. Isidro describes the rising waters and the shaken land, the collapsing buildings, the dreadful sound and the common fear that has bought people closer to apocalypse believers. A disaster. François Daireaux cuts nothing out. Whatever is said is said. Isidro’s breath, his silences, his glances, the sound of the water and the graceful movements in the ocean. Stillness has returned to the grey and blue lagoons, and attempts at fishing punctuate the tranquil days in Alvaro Obregon.
So this is how we live.
François Daireaux, an artist, sculptor, filmmaker, photographer and traveller, practices anthropology in images. Wherever he goes, there he is. He sees, he gathers, he samples – sometimes for years before deciding on a patiently edited version. Dui ma?, for example, was filmed over several years in China with no interviews but a few fragile humans lost in an immense maze of ruine. Firozabad was filmed in a number of glassworks in India. Each of his films challenges the politics in hand. What have we made of man and his children? The images could be vast yet minimal historical frescoes, revealing the height of one of the crises mentioned earlier. Each of his works is also an aesthetic experience: a film exposed like a painting.
Here, the exhibition opens in the dark. A few minutes later, the film lights up on a big screen for a six-hour projection. Immersed in contemplation, observers can stay to the end or watch an hour or two and come back the next day. They can let the images settle in their memories, and return a few days later to continue watching. They may return to review a passage first perceived as strange and confirm if it could be seen in other ways. Or they may discover something that failed to register the first time. I have long said I do not like cinema because I essentially prefer to look at paintings. I have declared the two incompatible. But with François Daireaux’s films, I am forced to revisit my rather brutal point of view. Far from pictorializing images, his films act like paintings, training the gaze. In them, we can lose ourselves endlessly.
Moving beyond aesthetics, there is a real physical change in the observer-spectator. For anyone who spends an hour or two (or more) in front of the images, wrapped in this perfectly tuned sound, natural time seems restored to the body and mind. As a result, going back out onto the street offers a new sensory experience created by an interval readjusting to compressed time.
We do not know if the images in François Daireaux’s film are the last we will see before the world’s final major transformation into collapse or widespread compression. But as the film plays, the crack behind Isidro widens.

Philippe Saulle
June 2019