Twenty-two summers back, in 1992, two British men and a group of film enthusiasts of Kerala, travelled across this State, to screen a documentary about a journalist in search of Macondo, the mythical town where Gabriel Garcia Marquez’s ‘One Hundred Years of Solitude’ is set. Much like Melquíades and his band of gypsies in the book, they stopped at various towns and took along the common folk to a magical world which has found existence beyond dog-eared pages, in the varied imaginations of its readers.
The London-based independent filmmaker Dan Weldon and his photographer friend Josh Pullman spent some weeks in the State to screen Dan’s film ‘My Macondo’. The Odessa Collective, started by John Abraham, had brought them here as part of its ‘Meet the director’ initiatives to popularise documentaries in Kerala.
When The Hindu talked to a few who were part of those heady weeks of screenings, they struggled with their fading memories, but were able to recollect moments that had left lasting impressions on them.Extension of search
“We had started this initiative during the post-production work of John’s ‘Amma Ariyaan’. We continued this after John’s death, and in 1992, we brought in Dan and screened his film in all districts except Kannur and Kasaragod. We all ended up travelling by the waterway during our trip to Ernakulam. It was like an extension of his trip in search of Macondo,” says Ammad Chalil of the Odessa.
By that time, Marquez had become a household name in Kerala, thanks to the numerous Malayalam translations, reviews and academic studies of his work by various writers. But in the modest hand painted posters for the screenings, Marquez’s name appeared only as a footnote.
“Since our main aim was to promote documentary, the director’s name was displayed prominently. The crowd consisted of a perfect mix of die-hard Marquez fans, literary and film critics, students of cinema and those who had never read him. All of them enjoyed the documentary, but each responded in a different way to it in the discussions that followed the screening,” says V. Musafir Ahmed, another member of the Odessa.
One of his enduring memories of the documentary is a sequence where the journalist, the film’s protagonist, stops his car when he sees a horse’s corpse by the wayside. When he gets back in, a swarm of yellow butterflies flies into the car, a scene reminiscent of the gypsy Mauricio from ‘One Hundred Years of Solitude’.
“That one scene set off long discussions at most of the centres where it was screened. That scene happened so naturally, blurring the lines of reality and fiction, much like what happens in his books. The film itself was the story of a search for a non-existent world and it struck a chord with the common populace, who formed the majority at the screenings. The Marquez fans were happy to talk to someone who had actually talked to and filmed their favourite writer,” says Mr. Musafir.Screening
The documentary was screened at regular auditoriums as well as makeshift venues, ranging from school auditoriums to college grounds. At Thiruvananthapuram, the screening was held at the Museum auditorium.
“My distinctive memories from those days were the discussions we had with the director Dan at our house, following the screenings,” says Beena Paul, artistic director of the International Film Festival of Kerala.