Ninety minutes with Pepe Mujica… delivered at his own pace. Ninety minutes, at life’s natural rhythm; that time passing as a plant grows, those minutes spent waiting for the maté to be ready, those hours rolling by as you cruise in that old-fashioned VW Beetle. Never going over eighty km/h… what’s the rush?
Ninety minutes with Pepe Mujica… delivered at his own pace. Ninety minutes, at life’s natural rhythm; that time passing as a plant grows, those minutes spent waiting for the maté to be ready, those hours rolling by as you cruise in that old-fashioned VW Beetle. Never going over 4,9 mph… what’s the rush?
That’s how those ninety minutes pass by with Pepe. With almost eighty years of experience behind him and still the President of Uruguay at the time of filming.
This is a character who will forever be remembered for his unique take on politics. An old man who commanded a country through words spoken with such practical clarity. Now is no longer the time for romanticised socialism or Trotskyite rebellion… now is the time to put thought and ideology into practice, to bring them back down to earth and to realise that utopia has its limits and to acknowledge the shortcomings of spiritless generations, worn out by the use and abuse of mishandled ideals.
The documentary subtly depicts the paradoxical world of a man torn between his socialist nature and the capitalist reality which surrounds him; a reality which he is unwilling to fight.
The documentary ‘Pepe Mujica – Lessons from the Flowerbed’ subtly depicts the paradoxical world of a man torn between his socialist nature and the capitalist reality which surrounds him; a reality which he is unwilling to fight. Anyone wondering whether this decision is down to wisdom, or merely a sign of old age is sure to find their answer…
The piece itself presents us with a picture of all-consuming capitalism. This is particularly clear when we witness the prison complex where Mujica spent years detained in isolation during the country’s dictatorship, now transformed into a luxury shopping centre. So transformed is the site, that Mujica himself struggles to locate the precise place where he was held captive. Those nickle-plated walls of the shopping centre conceal a much darker past. “There’s nothing left to say”. Besides, the past hurts”. That’s all the camera gets from him; calm, evasive and answering questions about the issue with more silence than words. Those uncomfortable pauses, leaving unspoken truths to the viewers’ imagination…
So how do you cope in an environment which you fundamentally disagree with? How do you govern a society that responds with nothing but apathy, completely disregards deadlines and constantly postpones changes by always demanding more time? “With your hands” – replies Mujica – “your hands help you think. The reality is always more complex than the ideas, and physical activity stops us from overthinking things”.
An old man, a man of the land. That’s how Mujica defines himself and that’s how he’s seen. As president of Uruguay, you’d have thought that the hectic schedule would take its toll on an eighty year old’s body… but all age is forgotten when he looks you in the eyes. His eyes are full of hunger; a hunger to learn, to play… a hunger to live.
‘Pepe Mujica, Lessons from the Flowerbed’ directed by Heidi Specogna was part of the programme of ‘IberoDocs 2016’, the Iberoamerican Documentary Film Festival in Scotland. The screening was at the Edinburgh Filmhouse.