Every year since 2018, the Muestra de Cine has explored a specific subject matter pertaining to the island of Lanzarote through a large number of films coupled with a broad selection of cultural activities. Besides being profoundly identified with our society, landscape and economy, the subject matter also resonates with other places around the planet. The idea behind the annual theme is to glean a better understanding of Lanzarote through film and culture and from a keen awareness that the island is always connected with other places and other ways of life. The goal is to discover who we once were, who we are now, and who we could be in the future through gazes and insights of other ways of being in the world and also to examine our own identity from the optic of differences, similarities and equivalences with other lands and cultures.
Over these years we have addressed five issues that have marked Lanzarote throughout its history: ‘Volcano’, ‘Salt’, ‘Crisis’, ‘Wind’ and ‘Fishing’. All these subject matters enabled us to discover not just different nuances and aspects of interest of this island but also, and more importantly, to understand how other people have engaged and continue to engage with the same issues in different places around the world. And so, over these five years we have worked from the local, the close at hand, finding out about the ways of life and personal experiences of women working in salt flats, fishermen or restorers of windmills who live on the island, to the global, learning how these issues have a major geopolitical impact, whether it be the wind as renewable energy or overfishing as an environmental problem with a planetary reach.
This year we wish to address another key issue for the history of the island of Lanzarote and, yet again, for the whole of humanity: Emigration, a phenomenon that has marked human beings since the very origin of our species, both in terms of biology and population, of religion and politics. Recent studies have shown that human beings have been nomadic for thousands of years, emigrating from Africa around one hundred and thirty thousand years ago and, according to the foundational myth of the so-called Religions of the Book—to refer to just one with which millions of people identify—the history of humankind begins precisely with emigration: with Adam and Eve being cast out of paradise.
In consequence, it seems evident that emigration, which has defined the ways of life of the people of Lanzarote for centuries, is a universal issue. Precisely for this reason, if we wish to really know who we are, it is so important to try to understand this phenomenon that we are part of, thanks to many migratory waves throughout our history. The people of Lanzarote have left the island, undergoing authentic hardships, towards such distinct places as Uruguay, Cuba, Venezuela, Belgium, Western Sahara, Mauritania and San Antonio in Texas, not to mention other much “closer” places like mainland Spain, Gran Canaria, Tenerife or the island of La Graciosa. Adversity has been a constant of life on this island until the relatively recent arrival of tourism, a moment when the migratory process was inverted. Although people continued to leave the island for diverse reasons, the numbers were well outstripped by those arriving to the island from many places around the world, in some cases the descendants of families who had emigrated from the island in the past.
This thirteenth edition of the Muestra de Cine will once again be exploring a key local and global issue. At a moment when we can see images on our TV and other screens every day of the arrival of migrants to the coast of the Canary Islands and Europe, the film festival wishes to take a look at the other side of this news story, its origin: not the arrival but the point of departure; not the fear of the face of the Other, of the person arriving, but an analysis and understanding of the reasons behind the journey; not a gut reaction or rejection, but a rational, intelligent, empathetic understanding of the circumstances that motivate a person to migrate.
Over the course of these weeks, film, as the annual festival’s core element, but also lectures, meetings, exhibitions, hikes and various debates, will help us to formulate and pose other questions: Why do people leave a place? Do certain spaces become uninhabitable? What happens to places when the youngest and most qualified people, those who play a key role in the family, systematically migrate? What is the role of fear, expectation, hope and dreams in those people who want to or are forced to migrate? What kinds of migration are there: exile, expatriation, escape, hopes for a better life …? In short, as befits a cultural project like the Muestra, we hope to be able to bring to the table some important questions and, if possible, to outline some of the keys to a better understanding of how migration sits within our societies. We hope that film and culture can help us to see more and better, to feel more and better; and to think more and better about another of the major issues affecting our island and the world.
Javier Fuentes Feo
Artistic and production director