Sonia Fritz: A Mexican filmmaker anchored in Puerto Rico

fritz

Mariela Fulana Acosta (El Nuevo Día) interviews Puerto Rico-based, Mexican director Sonia Fritz:

[. . .] We are in her apartment, a cozy space with a cool balcony overlooking the sea. The house is simple, without great luxuries, just the essentials. Several pieces of art stand out, among them a poster by the artist Marta Pérez from the 1994 San Juan Cinemafest, and at the entrance, a painting by Myrna Báez. “It was her gift to me after the documentary (‘Los espejos del silencio’) that I made,” she tells us, revealing that she is the woman in the chair featured in that beautiful silkscreen entitled “Noche de luna.” [. . .]

Once the photo session ends, Sonia Fritz invites us to sit and it is from the privacy of her home that she reveals some chapters of the “film” of her life. Born in Mexico City, raised in a bicultural home—a German father and Mexican mother—and the second among five brothers, Fritz landed in Puerto Rico in 1985. Since then, she has lived and narrated so many stories from this country, that it is impossible to remove it from her heart.

With her sensitivity and ability to tell stories, this “Bori-Mex” [Puerto Rican-Mexican] feminist, as she describes herself, has given us documentaries and films in which she has given a place to those characters and stories that are so often invisible. Titles like America; Una historia común; El beso que me diste; Luisa Capetillo: Pasión de justicia; Los espejos del silencio; and, more recently, Mona, tesoro del Caribe and 15 Faros de Puerto Rico; are just some of the works that Fritz has carried out from Puerto Rico, where she also works as a professor of film at the University of the Sacred Heart [Universidad del Sagrado Corazón (USC)]. We speak with the artist about her love for cinema and for this country, which she has made her own.

Let’s talk a little about your childhood. How was it?  Well, I grew up in a bicultural home because with my father, we spoke German, with my mother in Spanish, and I went to German school. Later, I went to an American school. The holidays at home were celebrated German-style, from Christmas to birthdays, especially because we were closer to the family on my father’s side. [. . .]

[. . .] Are you referring to women’s issues? Yes. I think that with my first documentary, Yalaltecas, my interests in rescuing women’s stories and speaking about women’s struggles became clear.

Why? Well, I think that since I joined the Colectivo Cine Mujer, I went there with the very clear idea of ​​rescuing women’s stories, and when I arrived in Puerto Rico, I think that is still the line that I am interested in; because, if we do not tell the stories of women then who is going to tell them? We know that the one who writes history is the one who is in power, and, who is in power? The men. So it very clear.

Speaking about Puerto Rico, why did you come here?  Because I met a wonderful, handsome man who is the father of my son Emiliano. He was studying film in Mexico, so we had friends in common. I was finishing a job at the film school when we met, and, you know, love and adventure. He wanted to return to Puerto Rico and when he finished his studies I came with him with the idea that we could live between Puerto Rico and Mexico. I became pregnant and my son was born here. Then we returned to Mexico because I had left an unfinished documentary there on an indigenist theme, De bandas, vidas y otros sones (which won the Ariel prize in 1986—equal to a Mexican Oscar), and we were caught in the earthquake of 1985. [. . .] After that, I finished the project, and we came to Puerto Rico and stayed here because it was not feasible to continue combining projects between here and there.

When you arrived in Puerto Rico, did you start working in production right away?  It was a process. It was hard for me to understand how things moved here because they were very different in Mexico. I had gone from being a “freelancer” from a place where much more work was being produced, to arriving at a place with a gringo system where you have to write proposals, and I had never crafted a proposal. So, I started making productions for channel 6 and for channel 40, and little by little, things started falling into place. Then I started teaching at the USC. Something that helped me a lot was making the Myrna Báez documentary, because then I was in the middle of a divorce and that work came in handy, and because Myrna is a very strong, assertive woman and she was very important to me in that process. [. . .]

Although various efforts have been made in Puerto Rico, there is still no massive support for national productions, with few exceptions. What do you understand are the reasons for this?  I think it’s an audience that seems not to want to look at itself on screen. And in my view, it is probably due to the colonial situation because, if you think of the Dominican Republic (I’ve been there often and I know its cinema) I think there’s a lot more love for who they are and what their stories represent, whether the projects are commercial or art cinema. One should also point out that they have a very consistent support of the general direction of cinema (of the government) that we do not have. Here, the reality is that each filmmaker travels to festivals alone, with a film under the arm, without any support, not even from the Department of Tourism. Even so, now, there is more support from the public.

¿Really?  Yes. In my own case, my documentaries have had support. 15 Faros, for example, spent six weeks at the Fine Arts Cinema in Hato Rey and three weeks at Miramar. That span, for a documentary in any league and any country, is great. There are also films such as Hector’s El Father, which was number one island-wide, and Sanky Panky, which was number two. I think that these films may have had that support because, especially after Hurricane Maria, we do not want to look at more problems other than those we are experiencing on a daily basis. [. . .]

Excerpts translated by Ivette Romero. For full article (in Spanish), see https://www.elnuevodia.com/entretenimiento/cine/nota/soniafritzunacineastamexicanaancladaenpuertorico-2432036/

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