One of the many perks of making a successful film is being able to travel around the world as a guest at international festivals. It’s an opportunity to present your film to a wide audience and engage with people from different cultures. Most festival circuit travelers stick with like-minded people from the industry. But José Luis Guerín is a very atypical guest, immersing himself into very unlikely aspects of the cultures and places he visits. His latest feature film is a very personal travelogue that captures his experiences visiting cities like Vancouver, Sao Paolo, Havana, Tubingen, New York, Boston, Paris, Lisbon, Macao, Seoul and Cali.
The locations for the film were purely determined by the invitations that Guerín received when he was promoting his previous feature, “En la Ciudad de Sylvia.” Following chronology, “Guest” begins with his premiere in Venice, as he interviews some of the actresses in the film. Quickly enough, the festivals recede to the background as Guerín is soon exploring life on the street, in dialogue with his hosts.
Guerín meets up with street poets in Bogota, letter writers in Mexico City, and various communities in Havana. Most evocative are his encounters in Latin America where the sharing of a language creates a more intimate engagement. One of the film’s highlights is a conversation that he has with a group of women on the outskirts of Cali. They share stories about their lives as they do laundry. Here, he meets a 110-year-old woman, whose comments on her life and experiences are illuminating.
What makes the film so poignant is that Guerín is a humble, respectful observer. He is also naturally curious and following him makes for an enjoyable, thought-provoking experience. Inspired by the Lumière brothers, Guerín continues the tradition of actuality films, registering ephemeral moments during his travels that culminate in a veritable poem about the people and places that film brings him to. [Synopsis courtesy of Toronto International Film Festival]