A cinematic essay about life, memory and time, Argentine Nicolas Prividera’s “Adios a la Memoria” (“A Farewell to Memory”), the Doc Works in Progress (WIP) winner at Spain’s Malaga Film Festival, captures the life and recollections of the filmmaker’s Alzheimer’s-stricken father.
Produced by Pablo Ratto of Trivial Media, “Adios a la Memoria” does so through home movies the filmmaker’s father shot, footage from archives as well as those filmed by Prividera, as a family tragedy during the late-70s dictatorship in Argentina continues to haunt the family.
The docu-essay steers away from the standard first-person narration, and instead is told in the third person by Prividera who studied at the University of Buenos Aires and the National School of Experimentation and Filmmaking and whose previous films, “M” and “Tierra de los Padres,” parts one and two of a trilogy completed by “Adios…,” have garnered a slew of awards.
Prividera delved into why he sought to explore the theme of memory, his cinematic influences and what the future holds:
“Goodbye to Memory” is the third part of a trilogy on the subject of personal and collective memory, you have said. How did you become interested in this topic and why?
Let’s say that the topic was imposed on me organically by my experience as the son of a person disappeared by the Argentine dictatorship which began in 1976. The search for what had happened to my mother (including the contradictory memory about her that had remained in the family and those who knew her in her social militancy) was the subject of my first film, “M,” in 2007. What interested me was how the past is still present, and that was also the subject of my second film, “Tierra de los Padres,” which premiered at the Toronto Film Festival in 2011. In “Adiós a la Memoria,” I return to the home movies that my father filmed between the ‘60s and ‘80s, material he had briefly included in “M,” but there was so much of it that it needed its own movie. All three form a sort of trilogy, although each one can be seen and understood separately.
Tell us about the influences on your works. What aspects of French docu-essay director Chris Marker’s films have influenced “Goodbye to Memory”?
It is inevitable to think of Marker, of course, since he is the undisputed master of film essays. What influenced me the most, consciously, is the way in which he managed to escape the most performative of that format, avoiding falling into the traps of the purely “subjective” documentary. In Marker, there is no personal memory that is not anchored in, and in tension with, collective memory. On the other hand, Marker also teaches us how to work with montage and voice off or voice over, avoiding any redundancy or linear exposure, playing (like memory itself) with its constant counterpoint between the most diverse images and thoughts.
Why do you refer to Alexandre Dumas’ classic ‘The Count of Monte Cristo’ in your film?
This is a Markerian hallmark, in the sense of assuming all text (be it in books or movies) as part of one’s memory. In the case of “The Count of Monte Cristo,” he is one of the bridges between my memory and that of my father, as well as a figure that summarizes the experience of confinement (including the confinement in memory itself). That is best expressed in the 1922 silent movie, directed by Emmett J. Flynn and starring John Gilbert, which I include clips of in “Adios a la Memoria.”
The first movie you made when you were very young was one of horror. Why did you choose that genre and how does it influence your works today?
It is my “first movie” in the universe of home movies, and that is why I include it in the film to account for the moment when cinema became a yearning. But it could be said that the genre chose me, and not the other way around, since terror was a way to exorcise the daily horror that was breathed in the street, under that apparent atmosphere of normality that the dictatorship provided during the day (the killers mostly came out at night, like the monsters from those old movies I used to watch on TV).
Do you already have a new project in development? What is it about?
There are always ideas and projects, but it usually takes several years for them to settle. For example, I began to mull making “Adios a la Memoria” while shooting “M” in 2007. But only after my father’s illness did I understand what film I should make.