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Pepe Mujica - Lessons from the Flowerbed, in the footsteps of the extraordinary Pepe


- The latest feature film by Heidi Specogna paints the portrait of an unconventional and unique personality

Pepe Mujica - Lessons from the Flowerbed, in the footsteps of the extraordinary Pepe

The new film by the Swiss documentary filmmaker based in Berlin Heidi Specogna (in competition for the Solothurn Film Award during the last edition of the Solothurn Film Festival) pushes us once again to dive into the abysses of an extraordinary story lead by an absolutely extraordinary character. Eight years after Tupamaros, a documentary dedicated to the famous Uruguayan resistance movement that during the military dictatorship challenged the regime and incredibly succeeded in recovering the path towards legality and entering Parliament officially, Heidi Specogna returns to examine the concerns of Pepe Mujica, leader of the group and president of Uruguay. 

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As the film title indicates, the Swiss documentary filmmaker doesn’t try to sell us an academic lesson about the history of Latin America; on the contrary, as is her (good) custom, she sheds light on thorny issues using the fate of individuals capable of revolutionizing and overturning their daily reality. Heidi Specogna succeeds, basing her story on the personal journey of an individual (as was the case also for The Short Life José of Antonio Gutierrez), in offering us the portrait of an entire nation, of its paradoxes and of its infinite weaknesses. The lessons, Pepe Mujica’s pearls of wisdom, are not decanted from a pulpit as is the case for the majority of Heads of State, but from the flowerbeds that surround his home in the countryside, there where he feels free to express his doubts and hopes.

With this new documentary, Heidi Specogna appears to want to test, almost twenty years on, the symbolic phrase that Pepe Mujica states in Tupamaros: “I haven’t betrayed the young dreamer that exists in me”. Without selling us a simplistic portrait tainted with “do-goodery” of the president of Uruguay, Heidi Specogna seeks on the contrary, with that intensity and empathy that characterizes her movies, to confront him in order to really understand where the source of his power is. In that regard one magnificent scene is where the president of Uruguay, tired of the director’s intrusions and overwhelmed by the agendas, bursts out with “I’m not an actor!” Thanks to these stolen moments (the fruit of years spent documenting the existence of Pepe Mujica), Heidi Specogna succeeds in the difficult task of offering us a complex film without being complicated for this, a film that deals with serious issues without weighing down the story and pushing the viewer into an abyss of anguish. 

Like its protagonist, Pepe Mujica - Lessons from the Flowerbed [+see also:
film profile
plays subtly on the harshness of daily life and hope, between the city chaos and the quasi surreal calm of the countryside, while simultaneously transforming its protagonist into a bafflingly able tightrope walker. Although Specogna’s film offers us various glimpses of the private life of an absolutely extraordinary president, it never becomes an anecdote (or even a caricature), on the contrary by using individual moments (chosen with great care and used in line with archive images taken from Tupamaros) we succeed in recreating together a mosaic that’s both sincere and unexpected. With the release of the film many phrases come to mind but perhaps one of these brings us back to Pepe Mujica’s true nature: “we all (rich and poor) need our little square (our flowerbed) of happiness”.

Pepe Mujica - Lessons from the Flowerbed is produced by Filmproduktions and co-produced by WDR Westdeutscher Rundfunk Köln in association with ARTE and SRF.

(Translated from Italian)

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