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Short Documentary 'The Women and the Sea' Finds Balance Of Life & Death In Chilean Fishing Village

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Cami Guarda
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Fishing off the coast of Chile can be deadly but Julieta says no matter the conditions, she will brave them to go out and fish.

Award-winning filmmaker and journalist Camila Guarda’s work has focused on telling stories of extraordinary women from underprivileged communities not typically featured in the mainstream media. While researching a small Chilean fishing village that maintains symbolic cemeteries dedicated to people who die at sea for a possible film, she met two women and quickly became interested in their roles within the village.

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Cami Guarda
Cami Guarda is a filmmaker and lecturer at UW-Milwaukee's Department of Journalism, Advertising & Media Studies.

The short documentary, The Women and the Sea, features Gloria, a woman who preserves the legacy of symbolic graves for those lost at sea, and Julieta, the only woman among fishing crews who goes out into the dangerous conditions to make a living.

“I never thought of making a film about two women. My first goal was I’m going to make a film about the symbolic cemetery and the people that tend to it and the importance that this has in their tradition and culture,” says Guarda.

But after meeting the Gloria and Julieta, she became interested with how they represent the balance of life and death in this fishing community. Gloria, whose brother died in a fishing accident, refuses to go out on a boat — something that is incredibly rare in the village. While Julieta says she isn’t afraid to go out and fish even in the worst weather.

To capture the work of both women, the 14-minute film follows the sequence of a single day in their lives.

“I wanted it to feel like it was happening in one day because that’s life in this fishing village. I mean this symbolic cemetery, I mean it’s no coincidence that it was set on a hilltop,” she says. “They’re overlooking towards this ocean that gives them life, I mean it gives them their sustainability.”

The documentary is influenced by her own experience with grief and the death of her father in 2015. Guarda reflects on the fact that she had the opportunity to say goodbye to her father before his death, something that people in Caleta Tumbes don’t often get.

“[These families] never got that chance. They said goodbye to their loved ones who went out at sea to make a living and never came back,” she says.

Guarda says she hopes the film will help show people that grieving lost loved ones can take many forms and that any space can be turned into one that honors someone who has died.

“Even if it’s inside your head,” she says. “Thinking of ways to honor them still, even if they’re not here I think is also some of the messages that this film has.”

The documentary is a part of the Milwaukee Show One in the Milwaukee Film Festival and is available to stream until May 20.

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