A Forthcoming Documentary on La Playa de Ponce and Martorell’s Workshop

In his excellent article “A punto una serie documental sobre La Playa y el taller de Martorell,” Andrés Soto Guillén (La Perla del Sur) shares extensively on a major cinematic project—a documentary film in ten chapters on Antonio Martorell’s artistic life, his studio, and its vigorous social environment in “La Playa” (a neighborhood in Ponce, Puerto Rico). The title of this forthcoming work is El Taller de La Playa de Ponce: Las artes como vía del conocimiento y aprendizaje de vida [The Workshop at La Playa de Ponce: Arts as a Path to Knowledge and Life Learning].

“That Caribbean Sea that I can contemplate from here, within 30 years will reach the doorstep of my workshop, according to predictions,” replied El Maestro—as everyone within these walls calls him—with the brim of his gray hat covering his eyes completely. “[At some point] we’re going to have to surf out of here,” he continued. [. . .]

Antonio Martorell has been in his workshop in the La Playa de Ponce neighborhood for 31 years. “Here I work and live, in that order.” And there is where one can find his tools, his materials, his companions, his students. Everything.

Every corner and each hiding place have come from his guts and those of his team. Books stacked like sculptures; paintings on canvas, carpeting, and furniture; colorful figures in a collage decorating the floor; open umbrellas like satellite dishes in the corners; screens with engravings and mirrors; toys from a remote childhood; pink mannequin halves serving as pots for ferns; paint-spattered white bathtubs; little colored houses like hanging lamps; and worktables full of brushes and acrylic jars in use.

It is here where he also began to record and film each artistic project that he began, each activity with the community that he carried out, each creative process, from the birth of a painting or an exhibition to artistic workshops for the neighbors, master classes, and book presentations.

Each movement was, and remains until now, recorded through the lens of a camera. [. . .]

All those hours of recording and filming quickly came to his mind, along with his immense desire to tell the story of the studio-workshop and the artistic and community work that takes place there. But not only that; there is also the desire to tell the story of La Playa de Ponce.

“La Playa is Puerto Rico on a small scale, it reflects—in a more concentrated way—who we are, or who we tried to be, or who we were at some point as an unborn country. A desire to be and to remain, to understand one another, to know one another”. [. . .]

With this idea clearly in mind, they launched into the production of a documentary series of ten chapters, half an hour each, on the history of the workshop and the history of La Playa, as well as the reciprocal influence between them.

Its title is El Taller de La Playa de Ponce: Las artes como vía del conocimiento y aprendizaje de vida. A symbiosis between the creator and his environment. [. . .]

“The interviews are mostly a conversation between Martorell and the interviewee,” added Milton Ramírez Malavé, editor and coordinator of the project. In them you can feel, as he explained, what worries the La Playa inhabitants the most: “their biggest concern is the future, what will happen to La Playa.” [. . .]

“They are taking the land, the people, the sea. The only thing missing is that, like in [Gabriel García Márquez’s] One Hundred Years of Solitude or The Autumn of the Patriarch (now I don’t remember which one) they will come and take the sea away, that they will steal the sea from us.”

At 83 years old, he is very active and very lively, like Baracoa, and also aware that he is not eternal. “I have no ambition in life beyond to continue “doing.” My only wish would be to have a time bank, which is what I am increasingly lacking. That is why I work like a desperate man, because I know that time has a limit, and my desire does not,” he insisted with a spontaneous laugh. [. . .]

Excerpts translated by Ivette Romero. For full article (in Spanish), see https://www.periodicolaperla.com/gente/a-punto-una-serie-documental-sobre-la-playa-y-el-taller-de-martorell/

[Photos above by Florentino Velázquez.]

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