Mariner of the Mountains is an epistolary travel-diary to a country where my father was born, yet I had never seen. It is also a love letter to my mother, who raised me on her own, abandoned by the man she had fallen in love with before my birth, never herself making the journey we talked about so many times. Though she is gone, I made this journey, and this film, for her as much as for myself and for you.
The form of the film is essayistic and intuitive, creating a space for the audience’s own thoughts and observations. It takes advantage of the spontaneity and unpredictability that documentary affords, following no clear route, with no map or plan, allowing the same fate that pulled my camera towards it, this way and that.
At the same time, this film bridges multiple cultures, all of which are part of me and in some significant sense also alien to me. It reaches outwards while simultaneously looking inwards, making connections that have long existed even if they’ve also long been obscured. At this moment in history, when borders are being violently shut and allegiances forgotten, I hope this film allows us to make connections and realise that by design or by chance, we are all inevitably connected.
My motivation is a personal and a poetic inquest that begins from a love story and elevates to the intertwined destinies of two societies -- Algerian and Brazilian -- that once held utopian promises of sovereignty, progress, affluence, eventually both betraying those dearly held promises in the short space of decades—literally in the span of my life.
Brazil and Algeria don’t have parallel destinies, but their recent histories leading up to the present moment share resonant motifs. These two countries were and still are, in very similar ways, laboratories of love, revolution and failure. Algiers was once known as the Mecca of Revolution, and Algeria was a beacon of hope in the anti-colonial struggles, while Brazilian anti-colonial efforts are legendary and the more recent events of a right-wing takeover after such a hopeful period resonate profoundly not just in Algeria, with its own disastrous disappointments, but all over the world.
I believe that this intimate journal can help us to dream again - both here and there, or anywhere - of a future: of rage, joy, freedom and social justice. Even more so in the current context, with the growing threat to tomorrow perpetrated by the spread of extreme right-wing movements on the world political scene, we need films that follow a different, less predictable, path, that show us an alternative to the dire circumstances of today.
For Mariner of the Mountains I wanted to take risks that maturity and experience allow me - first and foremost, an artistic risk by distancing myself from what I know, opening the project to the unexpected, allowing chance, which is after all my birth-right, to lead me to discover things I couldn’t have known at the beginning of my journey. This film asks us to reach out, to believe in the unexpected, to remember to have hope and faith in our fellow planet-dwellers. No matter how far or how different we think we may be, we are all, in fact, intimately related.