Much has happened since the last post. I returned from Ecuador and settled in New York City. I am once again working full-time in post production – spending days and nights in a dark room tinkering away on films and tv shows that have yet to be seen. I commute on the subway with hundreds of thousands of other people every day. But Ecuador has not been forgotten – nor have the many great people that I met there. The projects that we started last year have been my personal escape back to South America. Videos and photographs, writings and scarves, memories of where the holes in my clothes were formed. The goal of our projects has always been about sharing experiences. Now, with the completion of our first project, a short documentary titled El Último Hielero (The Last Ice Merchant), we start what I hope is the beginning of a series of cultural exchanges.
El Último Hielero tells the story of Baltazar Ushca, the last ice merchant of Ecuador. Twice a week for over half a century, Baltazar has hiked up the slopes of Mount Chimborazo with his mules to harvest the natural glacial ice that covers the highest altitudes of the mountain. In the past, up to forty ice merchants made the journey weekly; today, however, Baltazar works alone. The goal of the documentary was to share a story of cultural change and indigenous lifestyle with people that would never otherwise have been introduced to it. It was important to me to portray the characters as the dignified people that they are and to show the very human story of their circumstances.
Well, the documentary is finished and El Último Hielero just completed its premiere at the Tribeca Film Festival in New York City. It wouldn’t have felt right to attend the festival alone while so many great people helped to make the film possible. In exploring ways to expand the cultural exchange of just watching the movie, it was immediately evident that Baltazar should come to New York to participate in the festival. It is all too simple to watch a movie and forget that the people in it are real, but Baltazar, standing in front of the film festival audience, could bring Ecuador to the theater! And for Baltazar, who has never been outside of Ecuador before, it would be a chance for a cultural exchange in the opposite direction as well as a symbol of my appreciation for all that he has done for me, the movie, and his community. And so, four days before our first screening, Baltazar, his daughter Carmen and our good friend Rodrigo Donoso boarded a flight in Quito headed to New York City.
I will be posting pictures of our time together in New York over the next week. I think we all walked away from this having learned a great deal and I’m looking forward to sitting down and writing it all out. Until then…