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The Great Movement: Aesthetics and politics collide

The Great Movement

The Great Movement is a case of aesthetics and politics colliding. Writer/director Kiro Russo began documenting the lives of Bolivian miners in 2009 and has slowly become integrated into the community. Russo sees in their stories a means of addressing what he describes as the ‘extreme capitalist moment’, which deposed Bolivia’s president, Evo Morales, in 2019. Russo forces us to confront the exploitation that underlies global consumer culture, the dirty secret of the renewable energy economy, but he does so with a hallucinatory irreverence.

Shot during the 2019 coup, The Great Movement follows Elder (Julio César Ticona) as he embarks with a group of fellow miners on a week-long walk to La Paz to demand the reinstatement of their jobs. When he arrives in the capital ,Elder finds work in a market, where he is stricken with a fever; the dust from the mine has infected his lungs, causing him to struggle for breath in La Paz’s high-altitude air. Believing he is possessed by a demon, Elder seeks the help of Max (Max Eduardo Bautista Uchasara), an itinerant witch doctor and hermit.

Russo has created a hybrid work that blurs the line between documentary immediacy and high drama. The distinction between creator and subject is dismantled in favour of a form that pursues an enduring spirit that is capable of transcending material analysis, interrogating where the political resides by imbuing every plane of existence with a radical charge. Russo is similar to Apichatpong Weerasethakul in understanding that the contemporary is grafted onto the ancient, and the results are something akin to the social realism of Pier Paolo Pasolini’s early films being bathed in the febrile metaphysical sensibility of Alejandro Jodorowsky.

The Great Movement

In The Great Movement, city and body become analogous, they are equally zones of contention; as political unrest unfolds in the background, Elder is engaged in a battle to establish the core of contemporary life – neoliberal kitsch, religious fanaticism and indigenous identity all vie for mastery of a compromised body. Pablo Paniagua’s 16mm photography casts La Paz in an eerie light; slow zooms offer portals into previously overlooked quarters; the capital is reimagined as a feverish realm in which symbols clash and overlap. The effect is a vivid, vociferous collage: street scenes are stitched together to forge a new way of seeing. Russo’s narrative unfolds according to its own logic, rejecting traditional story modes with a series of off-kilter dispatches from a country where natural riches and the depths of degradation coexist.

The sickness comes to stand for everything that has been extracted from dispossessed workers like Elder; while its purging represents dignity, solidarity, and a fresh belief in the efficacy of folk remedies. In Uchasara’s otherworldly turn, Max becomes a symbol of national decay and renewal. The surface grit and intimacy of The Great Movement are used to lure the viewer into a beguiling example of modern folklore, taking us on an intrepid, mesmerising journey.

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The final showing of The Great Movement at the Showroom cinema is this evening at 6.30pm.

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