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GOLDEN GLOBES, “Sundance 2023: Glorimar Marrero Talks About Death and the Vindication of Vieques..."

Updated: Feb 3, 2023

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By: Rocio Ayuso

For some, the first thing that comes to mind about film festivals and their award galas is the glamour of the red carpet, the festive atmosphere or the love for cinema that binds the majority of the festival goers.

It is precisely this love for film that rewards people who look for something that goes beyond the glittering events.

One example is La pecera (The Fishbowl), the latest co-production between Puerto Rico and Spain that just premiered in the World Cinema Dramatic Competition of the Sundance Film Festival. The film’s journey began on the other side of the pond, at the Malaga Festival where the director, Glorimar Marrero Sánchez, met those who would become the producers, the brothers José and César Esteban Alenda.

Thus began a journey that after, all these years, made them bond like family. That allowed Glorimar to make a very personal first feature film uniting two stories that she knows very well: the story of acceptance of a woman suffering from terminal cancer and her fight for a better future for Vieques (Puerto Rico), her native island, which is plagued by toxic metal emissions from weapons testing by weapons testing of the US army.

We talked to Glorimar via Zoom as she was attending the Sundance Festival with her team.

How did the story of La pecera begin?

I wrote the first version in 2013. I worked on several short films before and I wanted to do a long feature.

In May of that year, my mom died of cancer and that hit my soul. I wanted to explore the story of that illness but not from a biographical point of view.

So I developed the character of Noelia as a “Viequense” because I wanted to anchor (the story) in the colony of Puerto Rico. It gave me the opportunity to work with a sick character and build a bridge between her terminal illness and the contamination that is on Vieques.

Anchoring a terminal illness in a scenario allowed me to talk about Puerto Rico's political bond with the United States and the symptoms of colonialism.

When and how did the Malaga Festival figure in this story?

In Malaga, there is a co-production forum called Mafif in which I participated in 2018 with La pecera. Amaia Izquierdo was there and she loved it (the project) so she presented it to José Esteban Alenda.

That same year, the co-production in Ventana Sur was closed and thus, we were able to make our way to Ibermedia, the main Ibero-American fund that allowed us to do the co-production so that we could then seek funds in Spain and Puerto Rico. It has been a very good work relationship and very productive.

We managed to gather resources from both countries but the human bond forged is much more important – the Alendas’ ability to listen, produce and always be aware of how we could achieve the best possible film.

They were very receptive and supportive in addition to always protecting the production. They have taken care of the whole process so that we can be here at Sundance. It has been a professional bond and, at this point, a family one.

Is the reception at the Sundance Festival as you imagined how it would be?

It has been a very cool experience. The geography of Sundance is new to me. I have never been in a place that is so cold! But I love being at a festival like Sundance with a participating audience, with a community of moviegoers, which is much appreciated.

It is not a pedestrian-convenient festival. It is not a walking distance between some locations and you have to travel a lot to get to places.

In that sense, it is different from other festivals. But there was a lot of receptivity, a lot of interest in the film. The opening presentation was very good.

The question and answer session was appreciated, being able to exchange ideas with the public. It was the first time we were able to see La pecera on a large scale.

In this sense, it has been an extremely organized festival and in which they nurture the filmmakers a lot with spaces for exchanges, meetings between directors and programmers, an integrated programming component that, beyond the projection of the films, is very interesting and productive because they are workspaces

The leading actress, Isel Rodríguez, is the great surprise of the film.

Isel is a well-known actress for making comedies in Puerto Rico. The casting director presented Isel to me as her favorite. I wanted Isel to tap another side of her.

Also, Isel has family in Vieques so she understood the story and she classified herself as a Viequense. She connected with that memory. She has relatives who were sick in Vieques.

She focused on the character who carries this pain and shows it in a subtle way. She breathes in pain. She had a full understanding and a political commitment to the Vieques situation. It was important to her to tell her story.

Has the situation in Vieques improved?

We usually sweep these issues under the rug but the contamination is still there. There was a very large citizen movement that left Vieques in 2001.

But we are in 2023 and the water is still untreated, the cleaning of the subsoil is partial and there is no proper management of a space that was used for military practice for so many years.

La pecera is a bit of a search, giving audio-visuality (to the subject) so that this contamination can be seen from the front. It is in our country but it also affects the Caribbean basin due to the water currents. With La pecera, the intention is to sow, to show the inequality that is latent against the people of Vieques.

Was it intentional to show a generation and a protagonist older than you who are behind this cause? It always seems that environmental defense is in the hands of younger generations, as in the example of Greta Thunberg.

The social movement in Puerto Rico is led by generations older than mine. Now, there are different generations integrating but the generations of these characters are very much into social activism and fighting for rights.

In Vieques, there was a big exodus which made the island full of very old people which is also part of the problem. But it is true that I wanted to talk about that generation of Puerto Rican baby boomers who are very active in the fight for the rights of the island.

Translated by Mario Amaya

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