Cada año Celina cruza la Pampa Argentina en su carro para visitar a su hija Fernanda. Entre cientos de desapariciones, fueron ellas dos las únicas que lograron salir vivas de la sala de parto de la dictadura. Para esta madre e hija la única verdad y justicia posible es seguir adelante con sus vidas.
Each year Celina crosses the Argentinean Pampa in her car to visit her daughter Fernanda. Among hundreds of disappearances, they were the only two who made it out alive from the dictatorship’s delivery room. For mother and daughter the only possible truth and justice is to move forward with their lives.
Director Gabriel Szollosy
Producer Diana Kuellar
¿Quién no se ha sentido culpable en la vida? ¿Pero qué sucede cuando el causante de la culpa es el hecho de estar vivo? Celina es un documental sobre una madre y una hija y su lucha por vencer la culpa de seguir con vida. Luego de un exilio en París y su posterior regreso a Buenos Aires, Celina decidió radicarse en el campo, en Uruguay. Rodeada de un puñado de vecinos aferrados a un pasado de prosperidad y trabajo en su alicaído pueblito, Celina parece ser la única persona con esperanzas en el provenir. Dotada de gran carácter y fuerza espiritual, la mujer pasa sus horas entre sus memorias recogidas en apuntes a lo largo de su vida y el trabajo con el vellón de lana, según el arte aprendido de sus antepasados indígenas del Chaco.
Con casi 80 años, cada verano Celina debe regresar a Argentina a renovar su permiso de conducir. Como todos los años el viaje culmina en la casa de Fernanda (36), la menor de sus 7 hijos. Los mil kilómetros que le separan de La Pampa son un viaje en solitario por los recuerdos de Celina: un viaje por un pasado que nunca le abandonará. Celina y Fernanda son las únicas madre e hija que lograron salir vivas de la sala de parto del centro de detención de Campo de Mayo. Cuando le entregaron a Fernanda, la bebé tenía signos de tortura. Por más que la hija lo sabe, Celina nunca pudo hablar con ella sobre esto. ¿Por qué solamente a ella dejaron con vida y la devolvieron a su madre? ¿Qué no es capaz de hacer una madre por salvar a un hijo? Hay detrás de esta historia, entre cientos de desaparecidos, un padre: Osvaldo, el compañero de Celina y padre de la niña. Celina y Fernanda cargan con la cruz de estar vivas y juntas. El próximo verano se volverán a encontrar… “cuando quedamos solas siempre inventamos alguna excusa para no sentarnos a hablar de estas cosas”. Como siempre terminarán regresando a sus pequeñas vidas de todos los días.
Who hasn’t felt guilty in life? Yet most of us can survive with it. But what happens when the cause of the guilt is the fact of being alive? Celina is a documentary about a mother and a daughter and their fight against their guilt for being alive. After her exile in Paris and later return to Buenos Aires, Celina decided to settle in the countryside in Uruguay. Surrounded by a handful of neighbors clinging to a past of prosperity and work in their downcast town, Celina seems to be the only person with hope in the future. Endowed with a great character and spiritual strength, the old woman divides her hours between working with ten children from the rural school in the village and her only neighbor, to whom she teaches to weave the wool and to use the loom, after the art learned from her indigenous ancestors from Chaco. Because of her nearly 80 years, every summer she must return to Argentina to renew her driving license.
Every year the journey culminates in Fernanda’s house (36), the youngest of her seven children. The thousand kilometers that separate Celina from La Pampa are a solo trip by her memories: a journey through a past that never leaves her. Celina and Fernanda are the only mother and daughter that managed to get out alive from the delivery room of the detention center “Campo de Mayo”. When she was presented to Fernanda, the baby had signs of torture. Even though her daughter knows, Celina could never talk to her about it. Why did they tortured her? Why was only her left alive and returned to her mother? What isn’t a mother capable of doing for saving a child? Behind this story, among hundreds disappearances, there is a father Osvaldo, Celina’s partner and father of the child.
Celina and Fernanda bear the cross of being alive and together. Next summer they will meet again… “when we are alone we always focus our attention in something else to avoid sitting and talking about these things.” As always, they will return to their trivial everyday lives. For them, Truth and Justice are concepts as inexplicable as the mystery of life which, despite everything, always keeps going.
A mutual friend introduced me to Celina; she wanted to drink coffee and talk, and so did I. The first time I went to her house she told me her story. I remember how the light drew smoke loops in the kitchen. Upon leaving, Celina gave me homemade bread and eggs. Everything was simple.
A few days later I went back to meet my friend. She said, “Do you see how people who had been imprisoned or affected by the dictatorship never talks about it? You always find out by others.” At that time I had a whole new reading of Celina’s image that fascinated me since the beginning: she looking through the window. The kitchen window does not have a particular view; there is a field, a couple of trees and more countryside. —What is Celina looking?— I wondered. Celina does not look anywhere, Celina is seeing. What she told me about her daughter, she told me that she had never spoken about it to her. I asked her if she didn’t think that her brothers would have told her already. She told me yes, that she thought so, but that she didn’t think that they had told her about that other thing. —At some point we’re going to have to talk about it— she added.
This is a very intimate film about a woman who wants to put things in order and can not. The burdens that have been accumulated over years are getting heavier. They are embedded in our flesh and we are unable to get rid of them, or at least to share the burden entailed. This is a tiny story about the weight of life. Celina sees how her days are getting shorter and she keeps putting off the conversation with her daughter. All we always have for sure until we lose it is our life. Our life is a non transferable experience; a deep mystery that can not be understood, only experienced. This truth, considered in all poetry, philosophical treatises and political systems, is what have come to sense to Celina and Fernanda. A full life will find meaning to mountains, valleys and deep darkness; even if at the end is nothing more that an illusion destined to disappear with death.
I took to Celina some of my movies and she watched them sitting in her bergère covered with a crochet blanche she wove herself. With that same softness is told this story of women. In the Mapuche cosmology, the female womb is the extension of the essence of the earth; therefore, coming from the same mother, we are all children of the earth. The film is about the world of women; as such, it responds to a female worldview. The delicacy and discretion of the camera gives way to suggestion. Sensuality has particularly rich stimuli in Celina’s home and so the camera captures it. Colors, smells, tastes, textures and shapes are a delight and a cinematic challenge. The sounds of the countryside, with its birds and wind, and the touch of the leather belt turning the crunchy wooden spinning wheel are an exquisite soundtrack. Celina is a film of silence that open horizons to conceal a drama like few others.
The cinematographer has extensive experience in filmmaking. Celina’s filming will be addressed as a work of fiction, with careful handling of light and camera. Delicate movements in concordance with the theme will be used. The intermediate scene of Celina going out to the field at night will have a special lighting and slow motion.
Finally, TV files alluding to the trial for the THEFT OF BABIES BORN IN CAPTIVITY will be included.
Celina is a woman of strong bones; despite her years she still retains the beauty she enjoyed in her youth. When walking she goes first, then I follow. She has sheep and an orchard. The coop must be reassembled after the last storm took it across the fence. Celina kneads bread and teaches weaving to the children in the rural school ot the area. I like to see her vacant eyes when she is in the kitchen, next to the spinning wheel. I saw her backlighting with the window cutting her profile; and she remained like that for a few seconds, immersed in another universe. Celina walks to and fro, as if trying to leave everything in order when somebody must finish something and has very little time.
Fernanda is like her mother. She reflects a noble spirit, but with a contradictory childish aspect. She is very straightforward in conversation and she distinguishes little from other women overwhelmed by the division between work time and time with a family of many children. When she immers in her microscopic world, is when she is most fully.
Mara spends her afternoons in Celina. When she crosses the village, she perceives it differently, as a discovery of herself.
The last of the characters is the weave itself, which, from its origins in the sheared sheep, weaves the plot of the story. Nuke Zuke weaves unhurried and skilled, aware that nothing or nobody escapes her network.
Surrounded by countryside on all sides, at the entrance there is a sign that reads: Station Sharpening Stones. They are just two blocks alongside a line of bushes that buries the railway. The station still standing is occupied by two families, the rest of the buildings are little houses with gardens.
In Celina’s house there are wool, wood, leather and smoke. Among canning jars and copper cans some old books are stacked, French recipes, from the time when rabbits were eaten. The sun cuts slanting the always dense kitchen and discovers dozens of pieces of paper with notes to decipher. Celina’s house could only be hers.
La Pampa’s landscape is oppressive to Celina. It is an endless plain, where the route is a straight belt always connecting two symmetrical halves. This route is no less dangerous: of only two lanes, numerous trucks and heavy vehicles circulate across it. In La Pampa everything is wide and far.
To not be too repetitive I will obviate in these lines the admiration feeling I have towards Celina, which I guess is clear in the rest of the paragraphs of this proposal. Instead, I will talk about my motivation as a filmmaker and hence contributor to the understanding of the complexity of events that makes us human.
In times plagued with claims, complaints and pretenses, is extremely difficult to find the direction of our fight or to hold to it for the necessary time until it reaches its fruition. Often the true human drama is overshadowed to the spectacular news. Adopt certain words like pattern of behavior and our actions and motives in life will be owed to them. Love and Happiness… who does not wish them for themselves? But who is capable of explaining what those words mean? Thus, almost innocently, we men go around emptying of content words that express complex ideas. Perhaps it is the system itself conspiring to manufacture unthinking beings; beings who manage a language of empty words. I do not know. The truth is that more frequently I see demands for Truth and Justice; words that were later used to refer to crimes against humanity, today are often brandished to disputes in sports, for example. Speaking about this project somebody told me: another film about the dictatorship? Yes, and yes and yes. And as often as necessary, inasmuch as “Celina” is a warning against idiocy and apathy.
We abuse of the word Dictatorship and we make it a synonym of boring. Truth and Justice: what is true and what is just? Celina tries to make clear how far away might be those words from the human soul. It is our duty to provide them with meaning, for they are the only way to save from oblivion what must not be forgotten and to leave marks in the way for those to come afterwards.
Celina has two acts separated by a mini-interview in a surreal space. Both acts take place in distinct locations and situations. The first part is of folkloric style, of contemplative camera, focusing mostly in Celina’s house and village. The second part is the journey of 1000 km to La Pampa, Argentina. In Fernanda’s home, the youngest daughter of Celina, awaits the outcome of the story.
(Note: The words of Celina and Fernanda are based on our talks)
1- We see footage of the Grandmothers of May marching with their banners, the most visible message is WHERE ARE THE HUNDREDS OF BABIES BORN IN CAPTIVITY?
2- A group of sheeps are restless in the pen. The bleating of the resisting ones sounds shrill. A stout country man begins shearing the animal that resists. Celina observes the scene. The scissors work and the wool pile grows.
3- The smoke from the iron stove fills the room. Copper buckets and cans dispute the shelves with piles of papers and books, bundles of herbs and strands of wool. A notebook on an oak table unbalances the timelessness. By a square of the fogged glass window Celina looks outside: the field, some trees and more field. The anxious look of Celina is waiting for something.
4- Mara is Celina’s only student. As always, they spend the afternoon weaving on the loom and exchanging a few words about the town. Every so often, Celina says something: “That thread, if you pass it by this side you will be symbolizing fertility.” Mara attends Celina with some slightly heavier tasks. The two women cut the afternoon with tea.
5- At night Celina keeps working. In a box she has saved 35 agendas, all the same, with leather cover and gold lettering. There she keeps 35 years of memories. Celina is devoted to classify and slowly type her notes on the computer. Between shopping lists and Parisians phone numbers of who knows who, poems and forgotten thoughts appear.
‘I come from Argentina oligarchy: my house had four maids and every afternoon I took tea in Olivos Tennis Club. When I was a child my father had lands in Santiago del Estero, which is why I have always been related to the countryside. But he never let me join the “poor” children. When I grew up I felt sorry for them, so I weaved them slippers with the help of other ladies at the parish. I wove booties for them! And those children were naked and without food!
6- After the rain, the strings of town look full of clothes in the sun. A truck crosses the old railway line that is lost in the bushes. Passing the track is the home of Celina.
7- Celina surveys the spinning work of the rural school children. She tells them the legend of Indian Nuke Kuze, the old mother, who, like a spider, tenses the thread of the fleece while she weaves the ancestral memory.
We see the faces of children and their little hands working on the weave, Celina’s voice is heard off:
—When I was 28, fell into my hands a poem by Hermes Villordo; that’s when I woke up. I had it all, I did not lack anything, but I was empty. I already had six children; but I realized I was wasting my life with someone who I did not love. There was a world ahead, things to do, people to help …
8- At night, the camera pans every corner of Celina’s house, every object, every stroke of every paper, every memory… In a corner of a window a spider is weaving its web.
—My husband threw me out, me and my children. I had never worked and then I had to cope. I had to learn to survive alone and to earn for a living. I started working with the poor; women taught me to bake bread and I taught them how to spin and weave.
9- Night. Full moon. Restless dogs bark and the sheep bleat. In her pajamas, with some surgical air, Celina goes to the back of the house, into the field. The soundscape brings a surreal atmosphere to the scene, as if it were a dream or a nightmare.
(director) Celina, tell me about Campo de Mayo.
—I had a new partner, Osvaldo, to whom the military had censured him a book. One day they came home, they confiscated everything and took us to Campo de Mayo. I was seven and a half months pregnant when, one day, they took me to give birth. I had not broken water or anything. I saw nothing, I was hooded, they put me on a stretcher and cover me up, I could hardly breathe. They prepare me to give birth and told me “now you’re going to scream.” “To scream because I am giving birth? Do you think that after six children I am going to scream?” I said. Instead of shouting them I started reciting my poems about what is to bring a child into the world. Look at that, as if with six children I was going to let them pass over me. I do not know if they were touched by that or what, but a few days later they let us go. Today I say, without much pride, that my daughter and I are the only survivors, after giving birth in captivity, that were always together.
10- Stock footage of the trial in Argentina on the theft of babies born in captivity during the military dictatorship. After enumerating a list of charges, a court announces the repressive criminal judgment… Jorge Rafael Videla, life in imprisonment, Reynaldo Benito Bignone and Jorge “Tigre” Acosta, 30 years, Santiago Omar Riveros, Ruben Franco, Antonio Vanek, Juan Azic, 20 years… in the case of theft of babies in Argentina last dictatorship.”
While we see archive images of celebration in the streets of Buenos Aires by the judgment we hear the dialogue between the director and Celina in over:
– What does your daughter says in all of this?
We have never talked about.
– Never? But I guess the brothers have told …
Yeah, I guess … But there are always other things …
11- Celina drives her car by a large bridge. At the side of the road a sign reads: “Welcome to the Republic of Argentina”.
In off dialogue resumes:
—Are you satisfied? Was justice made?
— Celina, why did you come to Uruguay?
12- Early in the morning Celina has her breakfast in the cafeteria of a gas station. On the TV the news parade but no one pays much attention. Celina turns to look out the window with the absent attitude. On the route cars and trucks pass by.
13- The flat landscape dominates. La Pampa draws the horizon as an infinite line. A cow, a ombú, tires devouring kilometers… above the sun draws only shadows … The car is a red dot on the landscape. Memories of Celina parade vaguely like the reflection of her face in the windows.
—Machagai is like this, where I’m from: rather flat. It never rains. I would like to return some day before I die. From there is also Hermes Villordo, the author of the poem that changed my life.
In Huancayo, Peru, there is a house.
And in the house there is a man.
I do not know the signs neither the name
of the house nor the man.
If you want more,
I was there, watching.
I ate my tears,
The high sun, the lower sun, the twilight of 1000 kilometers later. The car passes.
14- In the morning, Celina’s car is in front of Fernanda´s house. The family takes breakfast, while everyone is getting ready to leave in the classical morning chaos of large families. Marcos goes to the hospital, the kids to school and Fernanda to work at the Faculty. Celina has to take care of her youngest grandson.
15- Through the microscope we see a formation of tissue cells. Fernanda is working in the laboratory.
—With the first paycheck I bought this microscope… Through little things one discovers the essence of bigger things. Yes, I know there are things that my mother is never going to be able to talk. And each has her life.
16- Celina plays with her three year old grandson. She wanders around the house of her daughter; reviewing books, pictures, toys from the new family members…
—You asked me about justice. I think there is never justice. I have hundreds of pages with poems that no one will read, mountains of papers that have become yellow. And I say … is it fair to live so much only to take it to the grave?
Celina stays by the window, looking out, waiting for the suitable moment to approach her daughter.
State of Development
In regards to research, a case study of the births that took place in captivity during the last military dictatorship in Argentina was carried out. The number of cases is altogether contradictory, and may never come to a definitive figure, but Mothers of Plaza de Mayo have reported more than 200 cases. Many of the children have been found and are still appearing under different identities. What is certain is that until now, the case of Celina and Fernanda is the only known where both mother and daughter have survived. In the matter of clandestine deliveries more information can be read on the website desaparecidos.org: “The detained women were interned pregnant, blindfolded or hooded, sometimes bound hand and foot, and identified as NN … The deliveries were made, some through caesarean, in the infirmary of the prison. Then the women were taken to Campito, next to the aircraft track located five hundred meters away, never to be seen again.”
Project Director, Gabriel Szollosy is Celina’s personal friend and neighbor. Last year he went with her on her anual 1000 kms trip to La Pampa to visit her daughter Fernanda. During this trip, the director was immersed in Fernanda’s family intimacy (husband and three children) and the special relationship that bonds her with her mother. He had the opportunity to talk at length with Fernanda on the taboo subject and to know the psychology of mother and daughter (both separately). Neither of them have a problem talking about these issues with third parties, but among them is impossible. Both have learned to accept that this will continue forever.
The two women have the so-called survivor guilt; a phenomenon detected in survivors of concentration camps and war situations where their beloved ones and friends have been killed, which leads to psychological and physiological difficulties to those who manage to survive. For Fernanda this is reflected, for example, in her inability to deal with live animals (although her profession is veterinarian). By contrast, Fernanda specializes in the laboratory (she teaches food science); with her microscope she studies the small details of which life is made. Moreover Celina, despite living in the countryside, suffers from phobia to certain open spaces. For her is very difficult to approach De la Plata river or even to cross it by boat: the bodies of her companions were thrown there after giving birth, in the so-called “death flights”. The vast plains of the Argentinean Pampa without landmarks on the horizon, those that she is forced to pass through every year, are also cause of discomfort for her: “That wideness makes me feel lost. Every summer is torture to me.”
Key Creative Personnel
Director, Gabriel Szollosy (Uruguay)
He trained as a filmmaker between Uruguay and Europe. In Hungary he spent a large part of his life, where he made documentaries for France, Spain, Germany and Hungary with Kelonmedia Prods. Arts, Hungarian Television, among others. Master in Production from Discovery Campus since 2003 and Librecine associate producer among Anna and Miklos Jancsó.
Winner of the Fipa D’Or at Biarritz (2008), the Felix Oliver Award for Best Documentary Film and Best Uruguayan International Film Festival Uruguay (2002), Best Documentary Film at Atlantidoc Film Festival (2010 and 2012)
2010 El destello
2007 El otro camino. Tango con Rodolfo Mederos
2008 Stalin City Cantata
2003 Confesiones de un ciudadano
Cinematographer Nyika Jancsó (Hungary)
He has more than four decades of experience, during which he has worked for major directors around the world. Stands out the work in movies of her father Miklós Jancsó and her mother Martha Meszaros.
He has participated in productions awarded in Cannes, Berlin, Venice, Karlovy Vary, Emmy, BAFTA, among others.
Executive producer Diana Kuellar (Colombia)
Documentary films Producer and director. Master in Creative Documentary from the University Pompeu Fabra in Barcelona. Currently PhD student at the Carlos III University of Madrid. She teaches film at the School of Communication at Universidad del Valle, Cali. Creator and director of the International Documentary Diploma in the same institution and president/founder of the Making Docs Foundation, an organization dedicated to the production, dissemination and training in documentary.
Among her productions are: Nueva Venecia (2015) in co-production with Passaparola of Uruguay; La nueva Medellín (2015) in co-production with TS Productions of France; Ines, Memories of a Lifetime (2013); La maldición, el milagro y el burro (2012) for DOCTV.
As director Amor de Lejos (2005) broadcasted in TVC and Señal Colombia and selected in several European festivals, Mamá Choco (2010), screened in over 30 festivals around the world, Best Latin American Documentary at Atlantidoc Film Festival and Best Film in the Ananse Film Festival and De Luna a Luna (2012) part of the collection “Working women: Stories from around the world about the struggle for gender equality at work”, it has been distributed worldwide.
Making Docs is an institution whose goal is the production, promotion and education about documentary film while serving as a bridge between Europe and Latin America.
MAKING DOCS was created in 2005 by a group of Colombian documentary makers in Barcelona [Spain] and then in 2008 in Cali [Colombia]. MAKING DOCS creates and promotes audiovisual documentary projects, while encouraging the emergence of new filmmakers through education and training.
The films produced by MAKING DOCS have focused on topics related to social, anthropological and cultural areas. They denounce the violation of human rights, explore solutions for a sustainable future, bet on encouraging and transforming stories. They talk about communities, persons, peoples, their problems and challenges, their culture and memory, their dreams and solutions. They seek to promote reflection and debate, while presenting original aesthetic and artistic proposal.
This unique position of MAKING DOCS in the heart of documentary academic and creative effervescence makes it an innovative, avant-garde, daring and effective company that has the potential to sketch out a new horizon in Colombian documentary film. It also makes the joint efforts and international co-production easier.
MAKING DOCS has been reconigzed for his work on numerous occasions, both at national (Creation Grants from the Ministry of Culture of Colombia, Awards Film Development Fund) and international (DOCTV Latin America, Scholarship Altercine / Canada; Award Latin Union / France; PremioIntermónOxfam / Spain). MAKING DOCS’ films have been presented at several international festivals such as Docúpolis (Spain), Rencontres Cinémas d’Amérique Latine (France), Sanfic (Chile), Itiniraries (Belgium), Refuge in Films (UK), Zoom In (NY, USA ) DocsBarcelona (Spain)
Librecine was founded as a creative audiovisual workshop in the early 2000s in Hungary by filmmaker Gabriel Szollosy and journalist Anna Jancsó. We wanted to tell compelling stories that united Europe and Latin America and expressed how we saw the world around us. Librecine also served as a hub for young creatives who wanted to try their hand at creating stories for the screen.
In 2004 we had the opportunity to develop our film Stalin City Cantata about a conductor who recreates a musical work celebrating the birth of the socialist man in Hungary’s first socialist city, within the framework of the Discovery Campus Masterschool. This marked a turn in our activity that would result in the opening of Librecine’s production company in Uruguay.
Today, Librecine’s Uruguayan and Hungarian outfits operate as two separate entities with a distinct voice. Librecine Uruguay continues to be dedicated to documentaries, cultural and educational programming for the international market, while Librecine in Hungary embraced narrative fiction and is especially active in developing family films and dramas with a strong directorial voice.
But despite the distinct focus of the two companies, our belief in the importance of our subjects and our commitment to making quality content marks our work on both sides of the Atlantic, uniting us in an ethos with creativity at its core.
Director: Gabriel Szollosy
Productora: Making Docs
Productora: Diana Kuellar
Director de fotografía: Nyika Jancsó
Montajista: Felipe Guerrero
Libre Cine – Uruguay
Cholula Films – Argentina
Fondo Fomento en la modalidad de Desarrollo de Documental, en el ICAU – Instituto del Cine y el Audiovisual de Uruguay en el año 2013.
Fondo de Desarrollo Cinematográfico – Proimágenes Colombia en el 2015
INCAA – Instituto Nacional de Cine y Artes Audiovisuales de Argentina 2016, apoyo con 42.000 dólares
Taller Documental FICCI Cartagena 2016
Bolivia Lab, Laboratorio de Desarrollo de Proyectos Cinematográficos Iberoamericanos 2016
Encuentro de productores de FICCALI 2016