Revolutionary Filmmaking and Historical Memory in El Salvador

During the 1980s, against the backdrop of El Salvador's civil war, revolutionary groups engaged in armed struggle turned to filmmaking as an equally fundamental weapon against oppression, misinformation, and the erosion of historical memory. Working towards an urgent, agitational, and conscious-raising—or revolutionary—cinema, the documentaries produced often depicted life (and death) in the guerilla’s zones of control, featuring scenes of agricultural work, civic festivals, education environments, and combat. Often without concern for cinematic tradition, filmmaking took place across a patchwork of formats, recording techniques, and abilities, with film frequently lost, destroyed, or buried underground for safety by one film crew to be unearthed by another. Always a collective effort, with a film’s credits typically entirely pseudonyms, the period produced several revolutionary and guerrilla filmmaking units, such as the Farabundo Martí National Liberation Front’s in-house media collective Sistema Radio Venceremos and the Fuerzas Populares de Liberación’s Instituto Cinematográfico de El Salvador Revolucionario. Curated by Jacob Lindgren from Inga Books (Pilsen, Chicago) this film screening features various generations of Salvadoran filmmakers and activists showing what it means to seize the means of projection and make films for and by communities in control of their own stories. Films shown in the program include La Zona Intertidal (1980) by El Taller de los Vagos, a deceptively calm fictional essay on the detainment, torture and assassination of Salvadoran teachers, Carta de Morazán (1982) by Sistema Radio Venceremos, a portrait of rebel military life in guerilla-controlled Morazán, and ¿Por que nos organizamos? (2022) by Colectivo Audiovisual Guacamaya, a weaving of both historical struggles and contemporary activism which stresses the importance of maintaining historical memory alive as means to avoid repeating the past.