Filming the dead

20 January 2012

For our Day of the Dead event last year, we commissioned a short documentary exploring the tradition of  ‘Dia de los Muertos’. Filmmaker Betty Martins reflects on the relationship between truth, memory and representation.

What I find very interesting in making films such as this one is the relationships that are initiated during the production process. The research, meeting the participants, the interviews and the editing is all about working on those relationships and that network-specific knowledge that we gain from this process, which is reflected in the direction that the work takes on until its final production.

This project is the exercise and the documentation of people’s personal memories, and we shot over one hour of footage for each interview. When watching the unedited video again and again you feel like you’ve been immersed into their memories. And while you are imagining their past through their remembrances, trying to make sense of a narrative while editing carefully each piece, you are also kind of re-assembling those memories. You then develop a relationship of affection. And that’s how the final work becomes a result of the work of those relationships. It is naive to think a documentary is 100% honest to the actual facts, especially if your work is based on people’s memories. If you consider that even one’s individual memory is already a reconstruction of the actual facts, we can understand that the narratives and its representations are relational. That’s what happens with projects such as this one, and it is in these complexities that, from my point of view, there is an artistic value.

Betty Martins is a filmmaker and educator. Find out more about her work at