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Miguel G. Morales and Silvia Navarro • Directors of On the Names of the Goats

"We try to preserve the film’s freedom at all times"


- We met with Canary Islander directors Miguel G. Morales and Silvia Navarro, whose documentary On the Names of Goats is screening at MiradasDoc

Miguel G. Morales and Silvia Navarro • Directors of On the Names of the Goats

We chatted with Miguel G. Morales and Silvia Navarro who are battling it out in the national section of the 18th MiradasDoc with their documentary – based on archive material – On the Names of Goats [+see also:
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, an indisputably independent film which calls into question the version of local history written by those in power.

Cineuropa: Have you always worked together?
Silvia Navarro:
It’s been four years. We were working in El Hierro when we first started to make titles together.

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Miguel G. Morales: In some sense, as we developed our first short films, we were also carrying out research for the documentary On the Names of Goats.

The title of the film is suggestive, enigmatic and evocative all at the same time…
From the moment we first heard the rediscovered audio of a shepherd listing the names of his goats, we thought it a great opportunity to think about infinite classification, about the human insistence on naming, and about those who archive, represent and lend a voice to others. After listening to those goats’ names being read out for ten minutes, it began to feel very suggestive: the delirium of it, the pretence, the insistence... So, we were very clear about that particular sequence: it was untouchable, crucial. Furthermore, from the very beginning we were interested in the field of biological anthropology, on how our conception of races was created, and, in the end, it all came together well, examining how anthropological ideas are developed and how these ideas continue to colour the way we look at things.

The documentary raises questions over official accounts of history
As we studied the archaeologist who appears in the film, problems and doubts began to surface, which opened doors onto roads that we wanted to explore.

SN: We were interested in themes tying in with an overhaul of our conception of the other, the alterity which conditions our thinking: continental folk arrive on the islands, they write about the islands and categorise them, so the latter become whatever the continentals want them to be. Miguel had already made works linked either to authors or to observations exploring how people’s ideas on Canary Islanders take root, so this project was a perfect opportunity for us to broach and discuss these problems.

Where does the torrent of archive sounds and images which you used to make the documentary come from?
We were carrying out a first edit of selected images and we weren’t too sure what it was this material was trying to tell us, but we felt we could work from within the imaginary story we wanted to create. We saw material ranging from the beginnings of Canary Islands cinema right up to the nineteen-seventies: fiction, documentary work, amateur footage... We also used the material produced by the actual archaeologist who appears in the film, who was in some sense putting together an inadvertent, first-person narrative all of his own. This, combined with political or religious archive material linked to power, and amateur footage… It all brings a really magical mix of images to life.

You credited the editor Ivó Vinuesa as a co-author
You have to recognise the role people play in a given project, because this was a complex work to process, and the editor understood the nature of the documentary perfectly.

Producing films in the Canaries – is it an easy process?
I’ve been working in the audiovisual industry for twenty years, and self-producing for twelve of these. About four years ago, institutional aids which had disappeared nine years previously were reinstated. At present, thanks to synergies among shooting schedules, there’s a genuine momentum that’s being shored up by local institutions, involving some very interesting male and female authors. From the point of view of our film, we were clear in our minds that it had to be small and independent and that we should protect its freedom, because there are many factors – production and policy related – which might otherwise derail it and result in its essence being lost. We involved ourselves in so many aspects of the film in order to preserve its freedom.

SN: Even now, the institutions here have opened up discussions so that the public might get to see another type of cinema.

Are there any new projects on the horizon, connected to the islands?
I’d like to start writing a fiction film in May: we’ll have to see whether I have the time and space to develop it.

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(Translated from Spanish)

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