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BRIFF 2023

Sergio Guataquira Sarmiento • Director of Adieu sauvage

“Giving visibility to invisible people makes me deeply happy”


- The young Colombia-born, Belgium-based filmmaker talks to us about his debut feature, which goes on a search for an indigenous Colombian people, and even for its own identity

Sergio Guataquira Sarmiento  • Director of Adieu sauvage

With his debut feature Adieu sauvage [+see also:
film review
interview: Sergio Guataquira Sarmiento
film profile
, Sergio Guataquira Sarmiento sets out to investigate a wave of suicides in an indigenous Colombian people, but meets a real friend on the way, who incites him to pursue a tender and nostalgic identity quest. The filmmaker presented his film in the National Competition at BRIFF.

Cineuropa: How does the film’s initial investigation turn into an initiation quest?
Sergio Guataquira Sarmiento: Originally, it was an investigation into lovesickness, which leads to a large number of suicides in the Cacua community. But little by little, I felt overwhelmed by the subject, the events and a person I met, Laureano, who immediately insisted that my real quest was one of identity. I could either force myself to stay with the original investigation, or accept this new proposal.

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Language is very important in this situation, and contributes to determine, or even restrain, people’s identity.
The more vocabulary we have, the more complex our thinking. The Cacuas are a collective society that works like a synchronised ensemble in order to survive in a hostile environment. The community is calibrated according to each person’s abilities, everyone has a specific function and knowhow. When someone disappears, it isn’t the person that we cry for, but their place in the collective. We therefore develop a vocabulary for the collective, which doesn’t refer to emotions because those are related to intimacy. This lack of words means that there is an impossibility to communicate one’s feelings. There’s an emotional traffic jam that sometimes leads to suicide.

The film invites us to discover a community, but it feels as though we are arriving already at the twilight of this community.
Maybe that comes from my personal perception of things. I am someone who’s profoundly nostalgic. Sadness doesn’t scare me, it’s a feeling that builds me up and helps me to feel at home. It’s a nostalgia that I try not to transform into melancholia, I try to combine it with some tenderness. But the Cacuas share some of that nostalgia. When night falls, it’s the sweetest moment of the day, that of intimacy, when they confide more. Nostalgia is then inevitable. It’s strange, it’s a very present feeling, yet they don’t have the words to talk about it. I wanted nostalgia to be one of the film’s colours.

When you get there, you arrive with the Belgian label. Here you are the Indian, and there we give you another label, you are the White man.
The question of one's place in the world is a perpetual one. For me, on the other hand, the question of identity is blurred, and Laureano sensed this straight away. When I introduced myself, I explained that I came from an Amerindian community that had all but disappeared. When I said that I considered myself to be an Indian too, that's what I was considered at school, they burst out laughing. But what am I, then, if they tell me I'm not an Indian? I don't think we're answers, I think we're questions. Our self-perception is never set in stone, it's constantly evolving.

What did you most want to convey?

It's a personal story, but it's also an X-ray of an existing people. At the beginning, I thought that it would be good in a generic way to have a film that bears witness to a people on the verge of disappearing, or undergoing profound change. But recently I went to show the film to the community, to honour a promise I'd made, but also to see a friend, Laureano, again. When he said goodbye to me, he said he hoped to see me again soon. Obviously, I'm not at all sure that I'll see him again soon, but I realised that I'd had a wonderful encounter. For me, the documentary genre is a document of humanity. Giving visibility to invisible people makes me deeply happy.

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(Translated from French)

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