The third annual Spanish, Italian and Portuguese Film Festival took place this past weekend on Grounds and in downtown Charlottesville. This year’s theme was “Visual Narratives of Diversity, Displacement and Inclusion from the Mediteranean and Latin America.” The film festival was sponsored by the College of Arts and Sciences, the UVA Arts Fund for Artistic Excellence, the Latin American Studies Program, the Department of Women, Gender and Sexuality, the Institute of World Languages, the UVA Library and the Department of Spanish, Itailian and Portuguese.
The film “Tesoros” was screened on Sunday afternoon as the final screening of the festival. “Tesoros” was directed by Maria Novaro, a filmmaker born in Mexico City, whose work primarily focuses on feminist films. The film was introduced by Federico Cuatlacuatl, assistant professor for the Studio Art Department in the College, who highlighted Novaro’s involvement of children in the film. He emphasized how the childhood perspective made the film accessible to a wider audience as the children tackle issues of colonial history to discuss race and class.
“Tesoros” begins with “the white kids,” Dylan, Andrea and Lucas moving to Barra de Potosi, a fishing community on the coast of Guerro, Mexico. Jacinta, a six-year-old in the community, narrates the story of the children assembling to find a treasure that the pirate Francis Drake hid in the area centuries before. Using a tablet and their curiosity, the kids band together with excitement to uncover the treasure.
The theme of treasure first appears with Dylan playing a game on his tablet about pirates and their conquests. From this, Jacinta creates an interesting narrative surrounding the history of colonization, particularly focusing on pirates and their role in shaping the history of colonized lands. She pays special attention to age-old colonization narratives, clarifying that the conquests did not mean that the Europeans were the first to discover the Americas, and also that the Spaniards stole from people living in the Americas.
The discussion of colonization provides an interesting background as children engage in conversations about race, mainly surrounding the “blondies” and the “brownies” in the community. Race does not seem to be an overt issue in the children’s interactions, as the darker students welcome Dylan, Andrea and Lucas on their first day of school. The children quickly find unity as they come together over the clues of the treasure, unaffected by their differences in skin tone. As one of the young children puts it, some of them have their father’s color, and some have their mother’s color.
Further, “Tesoros” highlights the usage of technology, making it an integral part of daily life as a source of entertainment and information for the kids. Dylan’s pirate game on his tablet becomes not only a source of entertainment but of imagination, filling his head with images of pirates and hidden treasure. After informing his friends about the treasure he suspects is hidden nearby, he and his friends search for treasure maps on the Internet, and later their teacher guides them to use Google Earth to see their location and the region’s surrounding features. In this way, technology serves to inform their treasure hunt by furthering their knowledge of the local area, therefore creating a sense of independence as the children drive this search primarily on their own.
In the discussion following the film, Cuatlacuatl described how telling the story through the children’s perspective gives the film a certain empathy, how building the story through the children’s eyes gives an interesting perspective to time, one that is malleable and shaped by creativity and imagination. He informed the audience that Novaro chose not to give the children a direct script of dialogue and encouraged them to improvise, creating a raw and natural narrative. Additionally, by maintaining low camera angles, the audience is able to build a closer relationship with the children and become fully immersed in their imagination.
Throughout their journey, the audience is able to relive the pure excitement exuded by the children in their friendships as they come closer to reaching their goal, creating a sense of longing for the days of young childhood.