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Benet, center, and young filmmakers. Benet, center, and young filmmakers.

Filmmaker seeks to restart youth project

Indigenous youths in Veracruz found an outlet for their creativity

Young filmmakers from the Totonac region in the state of Veracruz were able to capture their perspective on life through cinematography until the project that provided them a creative outlet was cut back by the administration of fugitive ex-governor Javier Duarte.

Beginning in 2007, Totonac youths created short films at the Indigenous Arts Center of the Tajín Theme Park (Centro de las Artes Indígenas del Parque Temático Tajín).

The main setting was the Totonac landscape and the main characters its people, the young filmmakers’ elders, parents and neighbors.

Before the Duarte administration cancelled the project in 2012 for lack of funds, 22 short films were created, five of them earning mentions in national and international film festivals.

Abraham Sotelo’s short Los Hermanos was chosen from over 700 films to be showcased at the Short-Shorts Film Festival Mexico in 2009.

Attending the festival — it was his first time in Mexico City — sparked Sotelo’s academic pursuits: he ended up moving to the country’s capital and enrolling in two subjects, teaching and digital animation.

Mexican cinematographer Ricardo Benet is now attempting to revive the program, promoting it among authorities and non-governmental organizations.

The short films made by the three classes of students “were very touching, that’s why they drew attention abroad, thanks to their fresh outlook, and their showcasing in a simple form their way of life and their worries,” said Benet, director of cinematography at the University of Veracruz (Universidad Veracruzana).

About 250,000 pesos (US $22,000) was invested per class to create the short films, with an output of seven or eight. Some schools invest that amount in a single film.

“Few resources, but well used,” said Benet. “Relatives ended up as actors . . . .” The result? “A direct and honest look, that’s what can be perceived, generating loads of empathy from people from many places.”

He says now is the time to rescue the project, and not only in the Totonac region, but to extend it to other indigenous communities, such as the Tzotzil of the Zongolica sierra, and the Chinanteca of the Uxpanapa valley.

“When I look at the results, I see many lives that were improved . . . Art changes lives . . . There are cases [of young people] that came, enrolled and after finishing their short and being awarded, they went along their way, taking a risk and going off to study, changing their conditions diametrically.”

Hopefully, Benet said, somebody will take notice of the “noble project.”

Source: El Universal (sp)

One of the short documentaries that resulted from the project.

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