We just finished shooting the first week of what will be the short documentary, El Último Hielero (The Last Ice Merchant). For a preview of what the ice merchant does, see this post. Rodrigo and I pitched tents in Cuatro Esquinas, the small, rural town where Baltazar, the ice merchant, lives so that we can live close to the families and be around all day to shoot, without wasting time traveling to and fro.
We started the shoot with Baltazar’s brother, Gregorio, who is an ex-ice merchant. Gregorio used to haul the huge blocks of ice down from the glacier on Chimborazo on the backs of mules and make his own ice cream from basic ingredients like fruit and sugar, but he stopped when sales for traditional glacial ice cream declined and supplies grew too expensive. Now he sells factory-made ice cream. However, Gregorio agreed to show us how he used to make the ice cream. We followed Gregorio for two days as he travelled to Riobamba to buy ingredients and demonstrate the making of ice cream from blocks of ice.
The first day’s shoot following Gregorio began on the Condor Bus, the main mode of transportation from Cuatro Esquinas to Riobamba. Music blasts from the speakers, and different buses are decorated with different color schemes; the décor of the Condor Bus included swanky red upholstery and curtains that could come straight from a bordello.
Gregorio often buys blocks of ice from the ice factory, where the large blocks are frozen underneath the floorboards. The ice factory owner gave us a tour, along with a basic rundown of how the ice is made.
We then headed to the produce market where Gregorio buys blackberries to flavor the ice cream. The market is expansive with mounds of fruits and vegetables of all different shapes and colors and sizes.
And then to an ice cream shop to pick up 300 cones.
This is Gregorio’s old workshop. Here he processes his ingredients to make the blackberry base for the ice cream.
Outside, Gregorio prepares the ice, cleaning and crushing it. He then loads the crushed ice into a large wooden barrel in which a metal tube is placed with the ice cream base. By spinning the metal tube and stirring the mixture occasionally with a large metal spoon, the fruity red liquid slowly begins to freeze. Eventually the magic and delectable product emerges: blackberry ice cream!
Gregoria then loads the entire wooden barrel of ice and ice cream on his bicycle, and peddles about town, selling ice cream one cone at a time. He honks the horn on his bike to get the attention of passers-by.
Every night, in Cuatro Esquinas, I transfer the day’s film footage from camera to computer. Having scoured the area for adequate cables, Rodrigo was able to splice electricity to an outlet in Gregorio’s old workshop. This is where we finish every night, transferring footage by candlelight.