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February 9 - 11

José Luis Guerín En Construcción

As one of Europe's most influential and innovative non-fiction filmmakers, José Luis Guerín (1960–) occupies a unique place in the vibrant and still largely underappreciated history of Catalan cinema. A brilliantly original director and a professor at Barcelona's prestigious Universitat Pompeu Fabra, Guerín has brought a new dynamism and experimental spirit into Catalan and Spanish cinema. Together with his colleague, the radical documentarian Joaquim Jordà, Guerín has transformed the Documentary Program at Pomeu Fabra into one of Europe's most important centers for experimental non-fiction work and inspired a new generation of young filmmakers, such as Mercedes Alvarez (El Cielo Gira).

Guerín's films purposefully confound narrative and documentary traditions, discovering rich narrative threads woven into the tapestries of his real life subjects and unraveling mysteries without solutions that nevertheless leave the viewer deeply satisfied. Guerín's masterworks such as the radical Tren de sombras and his most recent triumph En la ciudad de Sylvia possess a meditative and deeply cerebral quality without being overly intellectual, manipulating narrative, sound and off-screen space with a sophisticated sense of playful experimentation reminiscent of both Chris Marker and Raul Ruiz. An omnivorous cinephile since his childhood during Franco's regime, when foreign films were extremely difficult to see, Guerín openly acknowledges the profound debt owed by his films to those masters who he so carefully studied during his "education" at Barcelona's Filmoteca – not only directors such as John Ford, Howard Hawks and the Lumière Brothers, who are quoted and referenced throughout Guerín's films, but also those who Guerín boldly sought out and befriended such as Bresson, Ruiz and Philippe Garrel. Like the films of Pedro Costa, Guerín's films capture tropes of cinematic classicism embedded in the real world, discovering and reinventing, for example, the Hawksian symmetry between friends on the streets of Barcelona in En construcción or refining the patient Lumière long take used throughout En la ciudad de Sylvia.

Obsessed with the essentially cinematic qualities of travel and motion, Guerín's films lead the viewer on a voyage of discovery to a "foreign" place, such as his evocative search for John Ford's Innisfree in his eponymous film. Together Guerín's peripetatic and wonderfully curious films create a singular mode of cinema that revels in visual and sensual beauty even as it boldly experiments with narrative structures and provocatively intermingles documentary and fiction, memory and desire. Little known in the United States, Guerín's visit to Harvard is a historic event and a rare opportunity to discover one of Europe's most important filmmakers.

Special thanks to Brad Epps, the David Rockefeller Center for Latin American Studies, Global Outreach and Attention Span Media, and the Centre D'Estudis Cinematografics de Catalunya (Center for Cinematographic Studies of Catalonia).

Special Event Tickets $10
Saturday February 9 at 7pm

In the City of Sylvia (En la ciudad de Sylvia)

Directed by José Luis Guerín, Appearing in Person
With Pilar López de Ayala, Xavier Lafitte, Laurence Cordier
Spain/France 2007, 35mm, color, 84 min.
French with English subtitles

An unnamed young man arrives in the foreign city of Strasbourg for reasons unstated. He waits at a hotel, visits a café, sketches passersby… Eventually his motives are revealed, but it is not a traditional narrative that Guerín is after so much as the urban experience of watching, waiting, absorbing. Out of these materials Guerín builds a spellbinding film that reminds us of cinema's powerful ability to evoke the tugs of memory, desire and the transitory. An extraordinary city film, Sylvia almost entirely eschews dialogue to instead give a symphonic voice to the city itself through a rich and fully immersive soundtrack of urban sounds, explosions of music and strange echoes.

Unas fotos en la ciudad de Sylvia

Directed by José Luis Guerín, Appearing in Person
Spain 2007, video, b/w, 67 min.
Spanish with English subtitles

This remarkable companion piece to In the City of Sylvia offers a
compendium of images recorded by Guerín in Strasbourg while searching for the traces of a (fictional?) brief encounter some years earlier with a young woman named Sylvia. The beautiful black and white digital cinematography alternates between moving and still images, stitching together a unique kind of film journal, a cinematic sketchbook for In the City of Sylvia, a reworking of the photographic and documentary roots of cinema, and something absolutely new. A must-see.

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Special Event Tickets $10
Sunday February 10 at 3pm


Directed by José Luis Guerín, Appearing in Person
With Bartley O'Feeney, Padraig O'Feeney, Anne Slattery
Spain 1990, 35mm, color, 110 min.
English and Spanish with English subtitles

Guerín travels to the Irish town of Innisfree, where his beloved John Ford shot The Quiet Man, to explore the still echoing changes since Ford's visit years before. Revisiting the past using re-enactments with an imagined Maureen O'Hara, Innisfree explores the difference between then and now in order to chart the interstices between memory and history, between imagination, fantasy and reality, and between classical narrative cinema and contemporary, observational documentary.

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Special Event Tickets $10
Sunday February 10 at 7pm

Work In Progress (En construcción)

Directed by José Luis Guerín, Appearing in Person
With Juana Rodríguez Molina, Iván Guzmán Jiménez, Juan López López
Spain 2001, 35mm, color, 125 min. S
panish and Catalan with English subtitles

Exceptionally in a career spent shooting films in other countries,
Guerín's Work In Progress takes place in his native Barcelona. The film's ostensible subject is the construction of a building of condominiums in the city's "El Xino" quarter. This rough neighborhood is a home to workers, immigrants, squatters, prostititutes and drug dealers. The construction site represents an attempt to "improve" the neighborhood – by pushing some longtime residents out. Such is the backdrop to the film, which is made up of staged and semi-staged episodes featuring neighborhood residents and workers at the construction site. Guerín magically spins spellbinding cinema from the simplest elements of urban interaction.

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Special Event Tickets $10
Monday February 11 at 7pm

Train of Shadows (Tren de sombras)

Directed by José Luis Guerín, Appearing in Person
With Juliette Gaultier, Ivon Orvain, Anne Celine Auche
Spain 1997, 35mm, b/w and color, 88 min.
French and Spanish with English subtitles

On November 8, 1930, amateur filmmaker Gérard Fleury stood on the shores of Normandy's Lake Thuit, watching the sun rise in preparation for an upcoming shoot that would never take place; he died later that day under mysterious circumstances. Out of this information, Guerín constructs a haunting meditation on the photographic and cinematic image, on loss and decay, on the passing of time, the recounting of history and the blurring of fact and fiction. He uses both re-enactments and decayed images to render ambiguous past and present, historical record and speculation, and to make poetry out of loss.

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