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We Are Not Helpless Creatures: Interview with Patricia Balderas, AHORA QUE ESTAMOS JUNTAS Director

Gabriela Martínez

Translator, Emilio Cervantes

After being presented at the 20th Morelia International Film Festival, Ahora que estamos juntas, a documentary by Patricia Balderas, will premiere the next November 23rd in commercial cinemas.

The film, which won the Audience Award for Mexican Documentary Feature and Best Documentary Feature by a Woman at the 20th FICM, is a journey through the feminist evolution of Mexico, based on the encounter of a group of women who seek to inhabit the streets of the city without fear. Patricia embarks on an intimate and collective journey to understand the violence that has pierced her life. In the revival of the feminist movement, she traces her own history, her mother's and those of the women who accompany her to discover that in a violent world, staying together, defending oneself and preserving joy is revolutionary.

The FICM had the opportunity to talk with the director, who spoke about the process of making the documentary, as well as her reflections on the feminist struggle in our country.

FICM: At what point did you decide it was a good idea to start making this record of what was happening with the feminist movement?

Patricia Balderas: It was very funny actually. I didn't think at the beginning that the record I made of that workshop in which I met these women, who later became my protagonists, would turn into the documentary. In fact, that record was meant to be part of my work and contribution to that workshop. I did it as a matter of having a memory of that moment, but my initial goal was not to make it part of the film.

As time went by, as I went on researching, I decided that I wanted these women, who had given me so much light, to be my protagonists. I began to follow their lives, to talk to them, to record our own conversations. We had many, although we only recorded two, but we had many conversations for a long time. Sometimes we were many and sometimes we were few, but in the end the important thing was to record this movement of the subject, this learning together, discovering new things and resolving doubts.

In the end, when this feminist boom happened in 2016 through these massive protests that began to take place after #A24 (April 24), which is the Primavera Violeta (Violet Spring), protests that even took place in other cities of the country, I began to see this reality that swept me away, that dragged me and sent me to the streets to record with what I had at the time. I think the fact of not thinking so much about the technique, but rather on the importance of the moment that was being experienced collectively, was a great success because there is a great record of many beautiful moments in public spaces.

Ahora que estamos juntas (2022, dir. Patricia Balderas)
Ahora que estamos juntas (2022, dir. Patricia Balderas)

FICM: When you were selecting the material, what did you focus on to decide what would and wouldn't make the final cut?

PB: That was a bit complicated. I had big ideas. Ultimately I knew that the subject was complex, that it could be approached from many perspectives, from architecture, psychology, urbanism, anthropology, but in the end I decided to do it from a perspective that I don't know how to name, but it is a perspective that comes from a process of acknowledging violence, because in the end it was what was happening to me. I had normalized violence, thus I couldn't see the violent experiences in my own life. That is why I went through this process of being able to identify and then understand in what way it impacted me or continues to impact me. After that comes a healing process, because there is a lot of anger, a lot of sadness and a lot of pain.

I finally got to this part of the action. So, since you figured out that this world is terrible, what can we do? We can't just sit around, we are not helpless creatures, as one of my protagonists would say. We can't just sit and wait to be saved. We need to act too, because we also have the capacity to do so. Not that it is our responsibility, but what is at stake are our lives.

I was very selective. It was very painful for me to get rid of many testimonies, many moments, many images. In the end I had to understand that with small things, subtle things, we can empower a narrative. I think that's what we tried to do, at least from the selection of the images, from building the script with the recorded material.

The script had a lot of adjustments, but I think that the smallest adjustments were made towards the end. I think that having these early ideas clear helped a lot to organize the information because I was filled with approximately 300 or 350 hours of material.

FICM: How was the process to be able to fund this documentary through Donadora? 

PB: Well, for many years it was not funded. Actually it was financed by my own money and by the voluntary work of many, many women, and friends. At some point I said: "I can't do this anymore, I'm not going to make it. I'm going to give up. I don't want to do it anymore", because it was unsustainable. I needed to pay my rent, work on other things. I couldn't afford to sit down to review, record or edit.

Since 2016 I applied to many contests and in fact it wasn't until 2020 that I received my first support from FOCINE, which is the grant for creators to make a feature film, for the development of a documentary. After that, as I already had by that time almost all the material recorded, I restructured everything so that I could quit my then job to be able to dedicate myself to the film. I came up with a good editing script and then I gave myself the opportunity to have a strong enough cut to ask for post-production support the following year; that's where PROCINE came in.

In between these two grants we met Impacta Cine, a collective of women who make social impact campaigns with films. They approached me to tell me that they were interested in my film. "It's a film that we think has potential and maybe we can advise you or something," they said.

Ahora que estamos juntas (2022, dir. Patricia Balderas)
Ahora que estamos juntas (2022, dir. Patricia Balderas)

I met them in 2010 at an impact workshop. They selected the project and I am very grateful for that moment because that is what made it possible for us to sit down and do a crowdfunding campaign, which is how we were able to raise an amount of money that went in the management, but that positioned the film in the media and gave it an incredible strength. In addition, this allowed us to continue with the editing to be able to reach this post-production fund. That's how we finished the film.

We recently received support from Chicken & Egg Pictures for the impact campaign. Out of all the projects that applied worldwide, they selected ten and among those ten was Ahora que estamos juntos, which is the only Mexican project that received this support. We are very happy about that too.

FICM: What are your thoughts on the evolution of the feminist movement since you started going to the workshop until today?

PB: I believe that it has been a learning process and that it continues to be a constant one, of questioning ourselves, of finding new perspectives, of recognizing other women in other contexts, with very different situations and different privileges.

In the end, I think what I have understood is that it is a quite diverse process, where there has to be a lot of tolerance and a lot of listening, because obviously we are not going to agree all the time and it is okay to disagree. It is part of moving forward, it is part of the process of going somewhere. I believe that what we all seek is to have a life free of violence, access to justice, to have our rights guaranteed, respected and to always be able to exercise them.