One of the many perks of making a successful film is being able to travel around the world as a guest at international festivals. It’s an opportunity to present your film to a wide audience and engage with people from different cultures. Most festival circuit travelers stick with like-minded people from the industry. But José Luis Guerín is a very atypical guest, immersing himself into very unlikely aspects of the cultures and places he visits. His latest feature film is a very personal travelogue that captures his experiences visiting cities like Vancouver, Sao Paolo, Havana, Tubingen, New York, Boston, Paris, Lisbon, Macao, Soeul and Cali.
The locations for the film were purely determined by the invitations that Guerín received when he was promoting his previous feature, En la ciudad de Sylvia. Following chronology, Guest begins with his premiere in Venice, as he interviews some of the actresses in the film. Quickly enough, the festivals recede to the background as Guerín is soon exploring life on the street, in dialogue with his hosts.
Guerín meets up with street poets in Bogota, letter writers in Mexico City, and various communities in Havana. Most evocative are his encounters in Latin America where the sharing of a language creates a more intimate engagement. One of the film’s highlights is a conversation that he has with a group of women on the outskirts of Cali. They share stories about their lives as they do laundry. Here, he meets a woman that is one-hundred-and-ten-years-old, whose comments on her life and experiences are illuminating.
What makes the film so poignant is that Guerín is a humble, respectful observer. He is also naturally curious and following him makes for an enjoyable, thought-provoking experience. Inspired by the Lumière brothers, Guerín continues the tradition of actuality films, registering ephemeral moments during his travels that culminate in a veritable poem about the people and places that film brings him to. –TIFF
José Luis Guerin was born in Barcelona. He started his career directing experimental films from 1975 to 1983, then directed his first feature film in 1983, Los Motivos de Berta. His film received a special price at the Berlin Forum. In 1988, José Luis Guerin directed the Spanish episode of City Life – the other episodes being directed by Reichenbach, Kieslowski, Agresti, Tarr, Sen et Rijneke. City Life was awarded in Berlin, Rotterdam and Montreal Film Festivals. In 1990, José Luis Guerin directed Innisfree, presented in competition at Cannes International Film Festival. In 1997, Tren de Sombras – presented during the Directors’ Fortnight in Cannes – obtained the Golden and Silver Melies awarded by the European Federation of Fantasy Film Festivals. Then, in 2001, José Luis Guerin directed En construccion, awarded in San Sebastian Festival and, in 2007, En la ciudad de Sylvia, selected by the 2007 Venice Film Festival. —dissidenz.com
“I am not an ideologue,” José Luis Guerín says matter-of-factly. “I need characters.” Judging by the lukewarm response that has greeted his