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Viewfinder Latin America 2014

Liberating a prison

For one group, an artistic 'invasion' of a state prison becomes a metaphor for the greater liberation of Honduras.

Last updated: 28 Mar 2014 15:11
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Honduras is a nation gripped by violence and insecurity. The brutality that stains the streets of its cities has created communities where people constantly live in fear, where neighbourhoods are fortifying themselves behind high walls and inside barbed-wired homes, and where families are fleeing to the US in search of opportunities.

In the midst of this chaos there are those seeking peace and working toward stability. Many of them, like Denis Berrios, are artists. He sets out, along with other artists from Colectivo Hormiga, to try and counter the onslaught of violence by creating places that are domains of security and free expression. To raise a weary public's interest they have decided to symbolically "liberate" an abandoned prison.

Once a place that housed prisoners in a time of military dictators and political repression these artists want to use this prison as a metaphor for change, to "liberate" Honduras, to transform a place once known for condemnation into one of expression, a place of confinement into one of freedom.

Every day Denis uses his art to protect his own son, Ham, and his "barrio" from an all-consuming spiral of bloodshed that is plaguing the capital of Honduras. Using recycled bottle caps, Denis creates murals with children, generating hope and conscience in some of the most dangerous neighbourhoods of Tegucigalpa. His struggle is to be a good father and support himself through his art, to stand up against daunting odds.

The story follows this artistic "invasion" of the prison and reveals a community re-claiming their city with their vision of change, hope and freedom.

Filmmaker's view

When you live in the most violent county in the Americas it is only natural to take all necessary measures to guarantee your safety, to keep yourself from harm's way.

But when this happens on a massive city-wide scale, you end up with a society that is practically imprisoned by fear and paranoia. In such a city human dignity and quality of life is lost, development is effectively truncated and hope is, ultimately, defeated.

Such is my experience of Honduras. I could not walk the streets of Tegucigalpa without seeing, reflected in the cityscape, a place that has been forgotten and left to the erosion of time. Just like its people, it has been abandoned to its own despair, barely able to survive the endemic spiral of violence that accompanies its economic and political hardships.


 
   

Gabriel Vallecillo Marquez   -   His work expands across many artistic disciplines. The filmmaker started as a poet then moved onto video-poetry, video-jockey, video-mapping, live cinema and eventually live audio-visual performances, among other mediums.

Gabriel has had four books of his poetry published and has been included in Latin American anthologies. His video projects have been featured at Biennales in Ecuador, Panama, Nicaragua and Honduras. He currently works as a literature and philosophy teacher, cultural promoter, magazine editor and co-founder of the Colectivo Acción Hormiga. This is his first documentary.

Three years ago, I began collaborating with fellow artists who shared my desire to do something about this. Denis brought a vision that subsequently became Colectivo Accion Hormiga. We identified the perfect metaphor, and as we are artists, a poetic one that had the power to inspire, to make the common citizen imagine a different city, a place where they could claim their own space and actively participate in bringing change.

It was clear to us that no city is legitimate if it takes away the dignity of those who live in it. Our metaphor was Tegucigalpa's former state prison, an historic building completely abandoned and neglected, just like the city and its citizens. We started working, with just our hearts and idealistic beliefs as a resource. A transformation was launched. And even more significant than the conversion of this abandoned jail into a centre for education in the arts and the culture of peace, was the transformation it inspired in hearts and minds.

This documentary made me realise something of great importance. Honduras is full of heroes, unexpected ones, who with their tenacity and dignity face reality and grasp it by the horns in order not to be dominated by it. They have taken the hard road of pursuing what they believe in despite all odds. Denis is just such a hero in his humanity and selfless pursuit of a better life for his neighbourhood; in his struggle to commit to his word, to be there for his son and not to give up on being an artist and working with volunteers to plant a seed of change in this desert of indifference.

In Pictures:

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Source:
Al Jazeera
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