No Place Is Far Away: the story of a land and identity denial

Land, so much meaning in one word. Many acceptations, all of them as strong and fundamental as the soil that we step on: the land is our home, a source of sustenance and wealth, a place of identity and collective traditions, something to conquer, owe and fight for. At the beginning of 1980s, the small indigenous community of “Rarámuri de Mogotavo” asked the authority for the recognition of the property right on the area where they have been living since forever, the Barrancas of the Sierra Tarahumara (Copper Canyon), in the north-west of Mexico. Nevertheless some incompetent or corrupted representative denied this right and even the existence of the same population.

raramuri women

 This is the “prequel” of the Mexican film-maker Michelle Ibaven‘s documentary No Hay Lugar Lejano/No Place Is Far Away, selected for a long series of worldwide known festivals (you can find the complete list here) and winner of the Best International Documentary Award at Ecozine 2014. The Spanish festival, member of the Green Film Network, will come back in May and it will host the award ceremony of the Green Film Network Award 2015.

No Place is Far Away is the story of the everlasting fight on unequal terms between tradition and progress: the Rarámuri community lives synchronizing itself to the rhythms of nature. In the meantime, it is suffering the pressure and threads from the “mixed-race” foreigners, who aim to take possession of the land for touristic purposes. It doesn’t matter if memories and the traditional knowledge of entire generations have their roots just there. Those roots simply shouldn’t be eradicated and carted away from the mountain that hosts their ancestors’ bodies and souls.

no hay lugar lejano_locandina

The documentary contains fragments of interviews, but above all Michelle’s film-camera takes the place of human eyes and ears, offering the audience pieces of dialogues and precious minutes of landscape shooting. Rejecting any soundtrack, these parts celebrate the silence and the sounds of the mountains. “Our purpose arose from the attempt to portray the community resistance to the edge of the canyon, expressing the feelings of people through their relationship with the landscape, visually approximating the way they valued their community. Beyond this first aspiration, a closer relationship with the people of the mountains ended up influencing our project, overcoming the limitations in the communication and introducing new possibilities” the director told us, answering some questions about the genesis and goals of the movie.

There are issues and stories that need to be told. Which issues made you decide to tell this story?

I grew up very close to the Sierra Tarahumara. However, despite sharing space, history and culture with Rarámuri community, I felt there was a collective gap, which left me with many questions. Investigating issues related to migration from rural communities to the city, the screenwriter and I found out the intention of building a resort on the tableland of Mogotavo with stunning views of the Copper Canyon, where Rarámuri population has been living for more than 500 years. We felt it was the right time to witness this event.

A special focus on environment, like it is in Green Film Network’s best tradition: what do you think is the role of cinema and specifically of your movie to inform, make people think and hopefully change their incorrect habits in this field?

Our first intention was not to describe or point out what was changing in the mountains. It came from the will of covering that cultural distance starting from the experience of those who face it on a daily basis, even if it is in a superficial form. Undoubtedly, the cinema is an invaluable instrument for reflection. For me, it is the possibility of having a personal encounter, a reproduction of what we as humans struggle, recognize or may also find indifferent.

raramuri child

Now, let’s reject the option of remaining indifferent to this story: after watching the documentary it is clear that in this fascinating trip to Rarámuris‘ deepest essence we can’t leave aside that sense of belonging to the earth that characterizes them. Exactly that sense of belonging have a double, antithetical result: on the one hand it makes these people apparently weak, while making them incorruptible, resistant and strong in front of the interests of progress on the other hand. “Neither our homes nor our land are for sale, because we live here” one Rarámuri woman states with absolute simplicity. There’s not much more to say about it, every further word is unnecessary.