Moretones (Bruises), Ginan Seidl & Daniel Ulacia Balmaseda, Germany, 2023, 90 mins
We’re delighted to be presenting the UK premiere of Ginan Seidl & Daniel Ulacia Balmaseda’s captivating film, which had its World Premiere at CPH: Dox last year.
In the darkness of the night tonos roam and cross paths – animal spirits that share their life with a human being. If something happens to one of them, the same will happen to the other. When tonos get hurt, people wake up with bruises on their skin. When people disperse, the tonos are lost. Ester, a jaguar woman who remembers the fleeing of her ancestors, accompanies women who are about to give birth. Santos looks after his cattle and lives in the river as an alert crocodile. While pulling fishing nets up from a boat, Juli swims in the sea like a fish. Without leaving home, Don Chico searches for animals in the wild, a mountain lion that heals people’s wounds. Through landscapes that reflect dispossession and abandonment, Moretones interweaves the history of Afro-descendant slavery with the environmental devastation on the Costa Chica of Mexico. It is said that, nowadays, to have a tono is a danger to be kept secret.
We have travelled together through Costa Chica’s region in Mexico several times. We were tourists at the beginning, but the constant communication with the local people made us more aware of their history, of the legacy of slavery overshadowed in Mexico’s past, the everyday life, nature and the spirits that inhabit the place. Most people are not aware that there is a region in Mexico inhabited by a black population, nor that only a minority of it had historic and political memory of their origins, naming it and acting against colonialism and racism present in the population. Mostly against the structural racism derived from the fact that the Mexican Government did not legally acknowledge them as an ethnic group that is part of the Mexican population until 2019. We discovered that there are remnants of this memory perceptible in the way people intimately interact with their surroundings as part of a different cosmogony than ours, where spirits, animals, tonos, plants and landscapes coexist, acting as witnesses of the region’s history. Above all, we were fascinated in how this cosmos contains its own truth about the world, and made us want to explore it.