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The week before the feast of the Virgen del Carmen, the past, present and future of Illa de Arousa converge in "la seca". At low tide, we meet Carmen and Monica, two generations of shellfish gatherers. Their stories of nostalgia and joy come together along the path of Monica's daughter, Tania, one of the last young women to enter the trade. With each change of tide, the shore reveals the memory of a matriarchal tradition that lives on in those who keep it.

Where there are no words that rhyme with "eu"

Published originally in Spanish on March 15, 2020

in Mexico City.

Original title: Orilla​ / the edge

Country: Galicia, Spain

Director: Caitlin Cooper

Research: Caitlin Cooper

Producers: Caitlin Cooper, Xabier Saavedra

Photographer: Daniel Rodriguez

Editors: Daniel Rodriguez, Gustavo Baeza

From the director's desk:

I arrived to the coast of a new paradise, a coast in cultivation, a fertile beach. I came here to learn, give shape to study, in la area (sand), an unknown body, among many. I remember my first walks around the illa that I would later portray, during a February blooming with toxos, small yellow flowers whose name has two meanings in Galician:

1 . Thorny shrub of the leguminous family... of which there are several species in Galicia.

2. Tough person in dealing with others. Figurative

So people described this sea to me, sea of mariscadoras. Toxas would be the women I'd wanted to document; getting to know their world would be complicated. One de fóra, as we often are. Spain was not my home, nor was the sea; this Atlantic water was in a way shared, but it would always be more theirs than mine.

I wanted to know them, but who was I? I sought to document the shore like an ecological jewel. But if I had never spoken of such a natural world in my native language, I was even less articulate in my second language: Spanish. For las mulleres mariscadoras, speaking about the craft in English was incomprehensible, but in Spanish we found ourselves in a similar realm. Too many words to translate eluded the novel names of a marine vocabulary unaccessible to inland glossaries. In this third space, we were able to relate.

Due to a lack of translated research, most of my previous knowledge had been read in Galician. The whole year I lived in the region, I put all my effort into listening to the secret language spoken around me, and somehow or other, I developed an ear for its wayward tones. I will never speak a word of it, but since the beginning, Galician had to be my language of contact with these women. To me, el marisqueo, or shellfishing, asked to be understood by definitions distinctive to Galicia, something resembling what we do when we first approach the tangibles of the world. We can learn what a souvenir is and since then that word is recorded as ours, knowing all the while that this word is detached from a closer culture. There will be shellfish gatherers in various parts of the world, but the Galician shellfish gatherer has her own language.

Stepping onto their praia, I realized why they had asked me if I was coming from the press; from Faro de Vigo, or La Región. The same people who warned me about this "xente de mal xenio" had not read beyond a few stories published by local media. They read them in their own language. Instead, I arrived as a blank page, a seawoman in practice. I extended myself to a new world, not only to the world of shellfishing, but also the world of documentary. For the women before the camera, this was the first time that someone had wanted to film their story outside the boundaries of the local; for me, this was the first time that I would direct a found narrative. Of a place and language I could only listen to.

With them I learned of la lonxa, el rastro, el burato. Not only did I learn the meanings of these words within the fishing community, I also learned, for the first time, the word for this type of fish market, for this exact tool, for that specific hole in the sand. I learned about their world without any basis or reference in any other language. In turn, their world became as familiar as the language that describes it. Together, our task was to create a space in which they could regain authority to teach the story that lies between language and craft. It was their choice of letters that made our languages come together in rhyme. I, the documentary filmmaker, arranged them.

At the end of filming we got together to celebrate the Virgin of the island: the Star of the Seas. We said goodbye in the middle of the party, a scene that exploded from every corner with the sounds of the town. A kind of town which is disappearing, whose people work a vanishing shore, a shore which gives ground to a dying language. They are disappearing, together, one rooted in the other. Without knowing, I gave myself the beautiful task of getting closer in the only way I could. To reserve pause between sentences that will never be translated. Begin as if the only word to describe Illa de Arousa was the one I was told. Perhaps there are times when it is better not to bring reunion to the truths of one's own. Perhaps translating the moment of not understanding takes us further away from the only truth. Rather than see liberation as the capacity of the documentarian to free story from place, I wanted to study the possibility of liberation through the unique words of place. Furthermore, I wanted to free myself from my own languages and preconceptions in the process.

Our ways of relating word to world are so diverse that at times the relationship feels forced. Be it the given interpretations or the trends of a translated world, those of us who seek to document live by the question: whose word? The work of observing is more internal than we think.

It was an island in Galicia. And I, the documentarian, came to understand nothing more than that. To listen to the words that were, to record their roll along the landscape and their bounce back and forth, how they echoed inside of me, free of any reference to my own dictionary. I came to be where there are no words that rhyme with eu (me).

Orilla will have its world premiere in August 2023 at Cerdanya Film Festival.

Cine Vita
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