After centuries of European colonialism, what’s the best way to rethink visual ethnography? For Laura Huertas Millán, a Colombian artist now based in France, fiction, imagination and emotion offer infinite possibilities for upending the colonial gaze in anthropology. With experience in video art and training from the Sensory Ethnography Lab at Harvard, the Beaux-Arts in Paris and the Studio national des arts contemporains in Le Fresnoy, France, Huertas Millán makes films that owe as much to documentary as they do to ethnographic films and the visual arts, in every case challenging the conventions of the genre in question.
Huertas Millán’s work is notable for its great formal and conceptual depth and poignant simplicity. Her early films explored the concept of exoticism. Voyage en la terre autrement dite (2011) and Aequador (2012), the key works in her first series of shorts, were filmed in European botanical gardens and the Amazonian rainforest in Colombia. They combine science fiction and fantasy with conquistadors’ and missionaries’ journals, as a way to deconstruct colonial representations of the so-called “New World.” Ridiculing conquerors’ adventure narratives by inserting them in a world of pastiche and artifice, she calls into question accounts of first contact with the indigenous peoples of the Americas, stressing the inherent violence of those encounters. Slowly but surely, fiction emerges as a narrative strategy that frees us from a colonialist point of view.
This effort to decolonize traditional ethnography continues in Huertas Millán’s “ethnographic fictions” series, in which the cross-pollination of genres and the use of fiction emancipate her subjects and give rise to new narratives. In this second series, the subjects’ imagination and emotional universe guide each film’s narrative and aesthetic, beyond language. Whether filming her own family (Sol negro, 2016), a matriarchal indigenous community in Mexico (La libertad, 2017), a young trans woman (jeny303, 2018) or a Colombian drug lord’s ruined mansion (El laberinto, 2018), resistance against colonial and capitalist violence is grounded in the fundamental concepts of creativity and freedom.
Explore the retrospective Laura Huertas Millán: Toward a decolonized ethnography
Programme 1 - November 15th - 7PM - Cinéma Moderne
Voyage en la terre autrement dite (Journey to a Land Otherwise Known) | France, Colombia | 2011 | 23 min | French | English subtitles
Aequador | France, Colombia | 2012 | 19 min | Spanish | French subtitles
El laberinto (Le labyrinthe) | Colombia | 2018 | 21 min | Spanish | French subtitles
Programme 2 - November 16th - 4PM - Cinéma Moderne
jeny303 | Colombia | 2018 | 6 min | Spanish | French subtitles
La libertad | France, Colombia | 2017 | 29 min | Spanish | English subtitles
Sol negro | France, Colombia | 2016 | 43 min | Spanish | French subtitles
Masterclass: Laura Huertas Millán - November 16th - 5:30PM - Cinéma Moderne
A discussion with an artist and researcher on the cutting edge of current debates.
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A Colombian artist based in France, Laura Huertas Millán has made six acclaimed short and medium-length films, lauded for their originality and the...