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Tana Gilbert • Director of Malqueridas

"We had a lot of confidence in these images, we knew we had a treasure that had to be protected"


- We spoke to the Chilean director about her film debut, a story full of humanity and respect about women who experience motherhood from prison

Tana Gilbert  • Director of Malqueridas
(© Bruto/Muestra de Cine de Lanzarote)

Malqueridas [+see also:
film review
interview: Tana Gilbert
film profile
, a documentary by Tana Gilbert, was a success at the International Critics' Week of the Venice Film Festival, and this success was repeated at the 13th edition of the Muestra de Cine de Lanzarote. We spoke to the director about it, which portrays a painful and unjust reality with the utmost respect.

Cineuropa: How did you get in touch with the women in your film?
Tana Gilbert:
It all started with an image I came across of a man deprived of his freedom in Guatemala, which appeared in a Chilean newspaper. That sparked my curiosity and I started researching on Facebook. That's when my algorithm crashed and I started seeing different men in Guatemalan prisons, and I moved on to other countries until I came to the women in Chile. Prisons were under question in Chile at the time. Mother Nelly, chaplain of the San Joaquín prison, the largest women's prison in Santiago, is a prominent figure. She’s a spokesperson for the class issues in Chile's prisons. That's when I decided to make the film with Paula Castillo, who’s my producer and also my teacher.

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The film tells a story that is a compilation of the stories of about twenty women, what is the process of creating this particular story?
We had many conversations with more than twenty women. With Alejandra Díaz, one of the film’s researchers, we had very deep conversations with them. We then transcribed and analysed them to start writing this story about the journey of motherhood inside prison. We marked the common milestones in all the stories, of which there were many. It was there that we realised that many children had died and so we decided to focus on this experience.

The film is created with images taken by the prisoners themselves with their phones in prison, the use of which is forbidden. What was the process of collecting and selecting these images like?
Crazy. We collected more than 4,000 photos and nearly 2,000 videos. With Javi Veloso, the film editor, we sorted through the images, creating the scenes and sequences of the films. We were always thinking about the story we were telling and trying to disorder what we are telling through the images and what we are telling through the voice.

Motherhood in prison is key to the film. What was it like emotionally for you and the women protagonists to deal with such a sensitive subject under such difficult circumstances?
It was very difficult for me, but also very transformative. Malqueridas represented my political position with regard to cinema. As much as I’ve gone through experiences as a teenager and my life has changed completely, there’s the issue of class defined by where you were born, which determines your growth. It is half predetermined by society, by the state, by capitalism and by many factors.

On the screen we see the images in portrait, as if through a mobile phone, which is not very cinematic at first. Weren't you afraid to shock the viewer with this?
I never thought so. We did give a lot of thought to how to represent the story, but thinking more about how to relate the children on the outside to their imprisoned mothers, and much less about the viewer. We observed a lot, we were very close to the children of Karina, the narrator of the film. This helped to strengthen the bond, we’ve created very deep relationships. From the beginning we had a lot of confidence in these images, we knew that we had a treasure that had to be protected to make sure it lasts over time.

Malqueridas offers a respectful viewpoint of the lives of incarcerated people, the opposite of what is often shown by commercial cinema and the media. What is the film’s position in relation to these other omnipresent narratives?
I feel that political positions are becoming more and more extreme, especially from neo-fascists. And I’m concerned about the position of cinema here, I think we have to resist. Even if we’re not going to change anything very much in terms of public policy, I think we have to resist. There’s an urge to address these issues, to talk to groups that have been historically marginalised by our societies. This makes a lot of sense and you see it when you show the film in spaces like this festival and different viewpoints emerge, I love it when that happens. It creates a dialogue that can sometimes be uncomfortable, but is also fruitful.

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(Translated from Spanish by Vicky York)

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