A number of contemporary Mexican films have moved away from the direct
portrayal of graphic violence on-screen, instead engaging with invisible, hard-to- represent aspects of systemic violence. This article brings together Deleuzian affect theory with cinematographic formalism to offer a new methodological approach to violence in cinema that draws from the critic’s own body and gut feelings. Through a case study of Tatiana Huezo’s 2016 non-fiction film Tempestad/Tempest, it suggests that the affective work of the film occurs not in the first moment of viewership, but rather after-the-fact by laying the groundwork for future resonances.
“The gutted fish reverberates with our disgust towards the
disposable bodies, ”
Tatiana Huezo (dir.), Tempestad, 2016. Mexico.
The Voice & the Affective Power of the Interview
Interviewed by Carlos Gutiérrez (Cinema Tropical) for a Sundance Collab Webinar in July 2020, director Tatiana Huezo speaks of her laborious, ritualistic process of interviewing subjects for her non-fiction work. For Huezo, it is important to conduct intimate, one-on-one interviews, even noting that her sound guy is well-aware that his recording equipment must put him at least 50 meters away. Just as duration is a key aspect to the affective work of her films, it is seemingly a critical feature of Huezo’s approach to interviewing; she tells Gutiérrez that her interviews typically last three to four hours. After the first hour, “esta dinámica de entrevista desaparecía y la voz adquiría como una cosa muy introspectiva […] empezaban a escucharse a si mismos y la voz adquiría algo como muy poderosa y muy profunda” / “the dynamic of the interview disappeared and the voice acquired something very introspective […] they began to listen to themselves and the voice acquired something very powerful and profound.” Huezo characterizes the interviews as therapeutic in nature, which I speculate is likely due to the powerful act of both speaking truth to power and bearing witness to testimonies of violence.
While Huezo does not speak of affect theory, the way she describes the voice underscores the (affective) something that cannot be condensed into discourse; the something provided by the voice during the interview process. Referencing her earliest work, El lugar más pequeño, Huezo states, “Yo descubrí el poder tan grande que tiene la voz como un elemento narrativo para una historia. Y que a través de su timbre, su sonido, desde su cadencia, de su pulso, de todos los gestos guturales que emite la voz de un ser humano, puedes asomarte al interior de una persona” / “I discovered that great power the voice possesses as a narrative element for a story. And that through its timber, its sound, its cadence, its pulse, all the guttural gestures that the human voice emits, you can look into the soul of a person (emphasis added).”
The reference to the “guttural” is particularly relevant to the interconnections between the voice, the soundtrack, the spectator’s gut, and the film’s affective propositions. Rather than just “el recuento de los hechos / the re-telling of facts,” Huezo pinpoints the voice as offering “sobre todo, la emoción de los personajes / above all, the protagonists’ emotion.” While Huezo uses the term “emotion,” I would argue the interviewee’s voice offers a critical access point to affective flows, the part of the testimony that moves listeners.
For more, see Sundance Co//ab Webinar with Tatiana Huezo, “Creando mundos cinematográficos con el documental y la ficción” available here: https://collab.sundance.org/catalog/Tatiana-Huezo-creando-mundos-cinematogr-ficos
Cosentino, Olivia (2021), ‘Writing from the gut: Embodied spectatorship and
violence in contemporary Mexican cinema’, Studies in Spanish & Latin
American Cinemas, 18:3, pp. 365–76, https://doi.org/10.1386/slac_00062_1