Chinese migration to Ecuador is at the centre of Ecuadorian filmmaker Paul Venegas’ film “Vacio” which premieres on January 24 in Quito.
His work addresses the complexities of Chinese migration in a week in which Quito hosts the Global Migration Forum. “The idea arose in 2010 from co-writer Carlos Teran, who is of Chinese origin. He wanted to do something about Havana’s Chinatown,” Venegas said discussing an issue he thinks is not “sufficiently visible” in Latin America.
Awarded at the last International Film Festival of Guayaquil, “Vacio” tells the story of a man and a woman who arrive unofficially in Ecuador from China. She dreams of reaching New York and he wants to get their son to the South American country. “The ‘I’m going to the Chinese shop’ is something you hear in different capitals referring to a food shop. In Buenos Aires, in Milan, in Madrid, in Paris, even in Africa,” Venegas said about the global extent of the phenomenon and the little knowledge there is of Chinese culture and modern China.
The first Chinese to move to Ecuador did so more than 160 years, but Venegas prefers to focus on the migration flow that started a decade ago when then President Rafael Correa amended the immigration laws.
Although many believe migrants arrive for economic reasons, Venegas dismantles myths by explaining people move for multiple reasons. At 49, he worships a culture he knows well, since he lived in China for five years. He has analyzed the society through characters like Lei, Wong and Chang.
“Vacio,” an Ecuadorian-Uruguayan-Colombian co-production, reflects what migration represents for Venegas: “jumping into the void (vacio in Spanish).” A leap in search of the most unusual dreams, the same ones that one day led Venegas to explore other cultures and countries. A leap into the “anguish” of the immigrant, in “a journey of deep emotions immersed in male power relations and where people struggle to save their dignity.”
His greatest boldness in this production has been to bring real migrants into his cast, which he turned into actors. “They read a script but the feelings are their own,” he said. He wants to “create stories about communities that nobody cares about visible.”
In 2010 he produced “Defense 1464” in Buenos Aires, which was about the “denied history” of Afro-Argentines. He is now working on a script about the case of multinational Chevron’s pollution, with which he wishes to show how indigenous communities see the world.
“I am not very interested in the type of cinema that focuses on one’s self, the ‘waking up in the hacienda’, which is what is quite often portrayed in Ecuadorian cinema. I am interested in stories that connect with people and discover things,” he said.
Venegas looks to expose his own vision of a kind of migration that “begins with hope, continues with a disappointment in the place and, little by little, becomes a nostalgia.” “We wonder why we left and miss our homeland, and that leads to personal anger and culminates in a leap into a void, to the anxiety of an uncertain future.”
Credit: Latin American Herald, www.laht.com