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This video documents the peregrination of thousands of barefoot devotees to the church of Quiapo (Manila) to be freed of their sins by the black nazareno. In the procession, which took place in January 2006, more than 500 people were wounded, crushed by the crowd. Two of the wounded portrayed in this piece died later on.
The video work that Sally Gutierrez has been producing in the past few years focusses on documenting the unique history and discrete everyday life of humble people. In Nazareno negro, contrarily, she chooses to record precisely the exceptional nature of this people. This paradigm shift forces her to modify her point of view as well as the way that she interacts with the individuals/ actors in the video. Located at a certain distance (both in terms of the fact that she’s observing her subject matter from a balcony, and because what she is looking at is a culture foreign to her), Gutierrez cannot help but offer us a polyhedral look. Surprised, fascinated and saturated, she manages to go beyond her first intention of documenting the event.
This video is part of Gutierrez’s practical research on the discordances between the traditional and the contemporary. For seven consecutive hours she films the incidents in the Nazareno negro procession in Quiapa, a neighbourhood of Manila. The final video is an edited version of ten minutes with original sound, characterised by a delirious and enthusiastic rhythm. The condensed piece displays a linear montage which includes brief sequences of the different occurrences in the procession. Gutierrez records a series of popular scenes: the customary food carts, the agglomeration of public looking at those taking part in the procession, the parade of music bands and majorettes, the dance of the multitude that accompanies the figure of the Nazareno negro and the children that climb on top of the statue to clean it with the handkerchiefs that the public throw at it (which later, once blessed by the touch of the Nazareno, are returned to their owners). Sins are redeemed both in touching the figure of the Nazareno negro, or, failing this, in the act of throwing and then retrieving the white handkerchiefs. We are therefore witness to a great processional parade which is exceptionally, albeit constantly, interrupted by groups of people carrying someone who’s collapsed unconscious. In all of the situations shown on screen, the amalgam of different traditions (Malaysian, Japanese, Spanish, Northamerican and that of the indigenous cultures) that have blended together into this set of customs is evident. Here is a hybrid of cultures, very close to that predicted for the postmodern global society, that come together in this collective passion. But the most important phenomenon that results of this cultural melange, is a uniform mass of people, of individuals, who, under the influence of religious fervour, forget their own individuality. This is Manila, but it could be Sevilla during the Holy Week, or it could also be a football match anywhere in the world.
Gutierrez’s documentaries always display an active and careful observation that questions the deeply rooted notion of the welfare state. In Nazareno negro the stage is the present reality. The experience of it cannot be told in stories, because only by observing from different standpoints can we actually appreciate the vast and complex network of situations that is woven between this multitude of people, all focussed on one single direction. Meanwhile, all around it, life goes on, the state of constant change that is the city of Manila.