On Monday night, Ecuadorian filmmaker Fernando Mieles brought his perspective on the unfair detainment of passport-carrying travelers to a film screening co-sponsored by the Whitney Humanities Center and New Haven’s Ecuadorian consulate.
A crowd of 30 students, faculty and members of the New Haven community gathered at the Whitney for a special viewing of Mieles’ film “Prometeo Deportado (Deporting Prometeo).” In a question-and-answer session following the screening, Mieles said that while the movie focuses on a particular group of Ecuadorians, the film’s fundamental themes are universal.
The film chronicles the detainment of a group of Ecuadorian travelers in an unnamed European airport. It mainly focuses on a young magician, Prometeo, who is both literally and symbolically handcuffed for the majority of the film.
During a discussion with Mieles following the screening, the director’s responses were translated by Margherita Tortora, Yale Spanish professor and New Haven coordinator for the festival.
Tortora said the festival’s committee selected the film for its relevance and as one of Ecuador’s highest-grossing films in 2010.
“It won many prizes in international festivals,” she said. “We have a huge Ecuadorian population here, around the New Haven area … and [I want] Yalies to know about people outside of Yale and to get some people from the city to come to events at Yale.”
The filmmaker answered questions on themes ranging from his filming location to the film’s potential exaggeration of Ecuadorian stereotypes.
The movie is an allegory for life in Ecuador over the past ten years, Mieles said. Nonetheless, he said he aimed for the film’s basic situation to be universal when he began writing the screenplay in 2000.
Mieles said his personal experience as a detainee in the course of a trip to Spain gave him the inspiration for the film.
“I don’t remember a lot … because it was a traumatic experience,” he said. “The one thing I remember is that I did not know what time it was. Then I started thinking [about the film].”
Mieles mentioned that it was then that he considered what it meant to be Ecuadorian, wondering why some people could cross borders freely while other passport-bearing travelers were detained.
New Haven is home to one of 19 Ecuadorian consulates in the United States, and the most recent U.S. census found that 21,000 Ecuadorians live in the state.
“The whole country is a part of [Mieles] and his work,” said Raúl Erazo, New Haven’s Ecuadorian consul. “He has to continue working, and I’m really glad he could share his talent here.”
The film, Mieles’ first full-length feature, will compete in the Emerging Filmmaker Competition at the festival, the results of which will be announced on Sunday.
Mieles’ documentary, “Descartes,” was shown at the festival in 2010.