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Meet the DocuWeek Filmmakers: Marcelo Bukin: 'Angel's Fire (Fuego de Angel)'

By Tom White

Over the next couple of weeks, we at IDA will be introducing our community to the filmmakers whose work will be represented in the DocuWeekTM Theatrical Documentary Showcase, August 17-23. We asked the filmmakers to share the stories behind their films-the inspirations, the challenges and obstacles,the goals and objectives, the reactions to their films so far.
So, to continue this series of conversations, here is Marcelo Bukin, director of Angel's Fire (Fuego de Angel).

Synopsis: Eight-year-old Angel works in a brick factory all day long in his village near Lake Titicaca, Peru. Angel's Fire poignantly depicts forced child labor in a community where poverty and despair drive parents to abuse.


IDA: How did you get started in documentary filmmaking?

Marcelo Bukin: At film school I got to know master filmmakers of non-traditional forms of documentary storytelling. I felt passionate about different ways of approaching reality and art.


IDA: What inspired you to make Angel's Fire?

MB: It was a commissioned film that afterwards turned out to be a really personal project for me. I had some experience in making films with children and I love to do it--I am kind of a kid myself when I am with children--and I had also been traveling and shooting in many undeveloped countries and really liked to submerge myself into that kind of reality. So when I got offered this production, I didn't doubt it.


IDA: What were some of the challenges and obstacles in making this film, and how did you overcome them?

MB: Obstacles and challenges....Many! I had a crisis: I was not sure if I was finding the real story; actually, the protagonist, Angel, is the brother of the kid I thought was going to be the center of my film. The first days working in the area depicted in the film, I was very confused; I couldn't accept the reality I was seeing. I couldn't believe those kids were in the critical conditions they were. So it was very tough on many levels. Then I went back to my comfortable life, and the kids stayed there...Overcome? We just kept on working. I am happy with the story, though it was tough.


IDA: How did your vision for the film change over the course of the pre-production, production and post-production processes?

MB: The vision didn't change. I tried not to have a preconceived way to tell the story. I tried to study, understand, feel and "melt" with our subjects and their environment, and then let the story guide me.


IDA: As you've screened Angel's Fire--whether on the festival circuit, or in screening rooms, or in living rooms--how have audiences reacted to the film? What has been most surprising or unexpected about their reactions?

MB: Reactions? Silence...Long silences...Then some people start to ask me about solutions and social plans, so I explain to them that I am not a social worker, I am a filmmaker, so my film hopefully helps to unfold a reality for others to take action or raise awareness or get to know a different reality from their own lives. Other people ask me about art, so we discuss the artistic approach and I love to do that. The other day I had a surprising feedback from the Peruvian Consulate in New York; they watched Angel's Fire and they asked me for copies for use as a political tool for designating funds to the areas depicted in the film. That was emotional and very rewarding for me.


IDA: What docs or docmakers have served as inspirations for you?

MB: Albert Maysles, Fredrick Wiseman, Patricio Guzman, who was my teacher. Also many fiction filmmakers: Fellini, Lars Von Trier, Pasolini... I like films, whether they are documentary or fiction; they are great inspiration. I love life, stories and feelings.


Angel's Fire (Fuego de Angel) will be screening at the ArcLight Hollywood as part of the Shorts Program in DocuWeek.

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