Film & TV

Interview: Diana Paez, Director of Our Voices/Nuestras Voces

Columbian-born filmmaker Diana Paez chats to Glam about her latest project, Nuestras Voces, screening in this year’s Spanish Film Festival

Columbian-born, Melbourne-based filmmaker Diana Paez exudes passion and energy. Her latest project Nuestras Voces (Our Voices) is one of the highlights of this year’s Moro Spanish Film Festival.

This documentary feature tells the stories of Spanish-speaking migrants to Australia: their struggles; their reasons for migrating; and their huge contributions to our society. Paez kindly gave up some of her time to chat to Glam about this film.

“I was lucky to jump into the project when the main idea was there already. Latin Stories Australia is an organization that gives voice to the Latin American and Spanish speaking communities. They were talking to migrants who came [to Australia] during the 60s 70s and 80s and I was already making videos for them, for their workshops. So they approached me with the idea and I was Like ‘Of course let’s do it!’ ”

When Paez began work on the project she suddenly found herself in Victoria in the middle of the world’s longest covid shutdown. Not the best situation for a documentary filmmaker to find herself in!

“[The project] started pre covid so things changed a lot through the process. I was planning to visit these people in their houses, probably spend some time in their daily lives. Then covid happened and the lockdown was not finishing.”

Paez made the unusual, and brave, decision, to conduct most of the interviews via Zoom, with subjects speaking directly to camera. What might have been clunky and static, in fact gives another layer of intimacy to the work.

“Now I’m grateful it happened. It also tells another story, which is that we are in the covid time and in a few years it will be really interesting to look at it and see how it was done. The most important thing was making them feel comfortable telling us their stories. And when I did finally meet them it was like “I feel like I’ve known you forever!”

Nuestras Voces introduces the wider community to a group of amazing people. Some are fairly well known, such as Simon Palomares. Others are well known in Victoria, such as Telmo Languiller, ex-speaker of the Victorian Legislative Assembly.

“Latin Stories already had had a lot of conversations with people who came back then, and who were important leaders in their community. People who have contributed through music, sports, politics, and so forth. We had about 30 stories, and then around 15 made it to the film.”

Paez chose to do all interviews in Spanish, although all her subjects speak English. A decision which makes complete sense in the context of these being Latinx stories.  But is there a central core to Latinx culture, which after-all, covers a wealth of countries, backgrounds, and experiences?

“We have so many different cultural experiences within Latin America, and this may sound a bit abstract or romantic, but I think really soul [is at the heart of it].  We feel things a lot. And that leads to actions. And it also leads to ways of being and ways of interacting with the world, and with ourselves. We are also of course attached to many beliefs. Most countries are quite traditionally Catholic and family is at the core of everything. Which has beautiful things, but also certain limitations, being such a collectivist culture.”

Although very busy promoting Nuestras Voces, Paez is already working on her next project.

“I’m working on another documentary that tells stories of migrant women. That hopefully comes out this year as well. These stories are more about refugees, rather than optional migration. And otherwise I am really open to stories, to what happens, and I feel it’s really good to be in this country at this time. So I’m staying alert to what stories I can connect with. Right now documentary filmmaking is what connects with me a lot. And even going through a more experimental form of documentary would be great.: exploring humanity in different ways. But if a feature comes later, or a fictional short, I’m very happy to go with it. I just really trust in the power of audio-visual media, regardless of the duration or the genre.”

Nuestras Voces is not just a film for the Latinx diaspora. A very human piece of work, it tells stories that anybody can relate to. And it gives us pause to consider Australia’s multi-culturalism, and how far we still have to go.

“I really hope people enjoy it: that they feel it. It’s important to see the challenges, and things that still need to improve in the Australian culture, but also find hope and inspiration. Because if we stay alert and with attention to what’s happening, and really humble to others and to ourselves we’ll be able to connect and in the end, lead a more fulfilling life.”

Our Voices screens on May 8th as part of the Moro Spanish Film Festival. Click here for bookings.

Learn more about Diana Paez here

To read more about Our Voices, click here.

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