Colombian-Australian filmmaker Diana Paez premieres her feature documentary Our Voices in this year’s Spanish Film Festival.
During the 60s 70s and 80s many Spanish-speaking migrants came to Australia: some from mainland Spain, but most from Central and South America. Like their Greek and Italian counterparts, they were often labelled “wogs”, yet their stories are not as well-known, nor is their massive contribution to contemporary Australian society.
Paez seeks to redress this imbalance. Around 30 participants from the sporting, arts, political, social justice, and other arenas, speak openly and honestly about their reasons for migration, their experiences, and their subsequent lives. Most of them, due to COVID restrictions, speak directly to a computer camera. And what began as a making the best of a difficult situation, has strangely added a layer of intimacy and authenticity to the work. Paez also chose to ask all participants to speak predominantly in Spanish, even if their English was fluent, thereby further anchoring the narratives in their Spanish-speaking origins.
The interviewees come from a broad range of Hispanic countries, with varied backgrounds, and include actors, musicians, politicians, sports coaches, choreographers, academics, and founders of important social organizations and movements. One story in particular, that of Foundation House, stands out. Renowned for helping survivors of torture and trauma, it is not well-known that it was founded by Hispanic migrants, in response to the horrifying situations then (and to some extent still now) existing in many South and Central American countries.
Our Voices is endlessly fascinating. Story after story draws the audience in. Paez and her team have edited the work perfectly, so that we neither have just one story followed by another; yet nor do we have stories so broken up that they become muddled. Themes are allowed to naturally emerge, and gradually the narratives seem to weave together to create a huge, and beautiful tapestry. Interviews are interspersed with images: some archival, and some very personal. But the focus remains clearly on the individuals.
Paez has created a monument to the resilience and entrepreneurship of migrants, a colourful snapshot of Hispanic culture in its broadest sense, and a gift of love to her audience. This is the kind of film from which you cannot help but come away changed for the better.
Our Voices screens as part of the Moro Spanish Film Festival at Palace Nova Eastend.
Click her for further information, and to book tickets.