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Interview: Lourdes Portillo, Director of Las madres de la Plaza de Mayo, La Ofrenda

26/04/2024

[Editor's Note: This interview is part of a larger feature about the women documentary filmmakers who blazed trails for the craft by premiering their films at the Sundance Film Festival in the 1980s. Please read the main introduction to this feature here.]

By Bedatri D. Choudhury

What do you remember of the 1986 Sundance Film Festival?

Sundance was born a heavy baby. In those days, it was kind of the only place that films like mine could exhibit on the West Coast. It just seemed like the perfect place. It was very exciting because it felt like a new movement of documentary cinema that was being birthed. And I wanted to be a part of that, of course. I can't remember really, what other festivals held the same kind of weight as Sundance.

I remember it being really cold, it was awful. I remember having our gatherings at the Moose Hall. And in the basement, they used to have a second hand clothing store. I remember buying a coat for $25, and it was the warmest coat I ever bought. It was probably from the 1930s.

Was activism always the focal point of your films?

It was extraordinarily important. There was only a certain type of film that was being made in those days, and they were lovely films. But I think what we dared to do was make something very activist and we tried to create something in terms of a movement. So we decided, we have to go for everything. We needed the style to be our own style, our concepts, our thoughts, and not it into the old pattern of making only certain types of film. And Sundance was the place to show it. I think the movement really began there.

How did you get around to making Las madres de la Plaza de Mayo?

I met Susana Blaustein Mu oz by coincidence at the Art Institute. She was from Argentina, and I wasn't, but I remembered some tangos my mother would sing. I was editing and she walked by the editing room, and she said, What are you listening to? And I said, Tango caminito. My mother loves this song. And she said, I come from Argentina. And she told me everything about the mothers of Plaza de Mayo. And then proposed that we make a film about it. And I said, I'm for it, let's do it.
LINK: https://www.sundance.org/blogs/interview-lourdes-portillo-director-of-...
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