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Rituales Breaks New Ground at the Writers’ Conference

Susan Page

By Kathleen Hudson

The experimental film Rituales will premiere at Bellas Artes, Thursday, February 11, at 8pm as part of the San Miguel Writers’ Conference 2016. This contemporary approach to feature-length video is fully bilingual, with subtitles in English and Spanish. The Writers’ Conference has been at the forefront of innovative presentations from leading authors, activists, literary agents, screenwriters, panelists, and storytellers. The 2016 addition of this groundbreaking film is part of their commitment to bring residents and visitors memorable encounters with literature. Recently, I was able to interview its author and producer Tim Hazell and conference founder and director Susan Page, who delved a little more deeply into their collaboration and chemistry.

Film Premiere
Thu, Feb 11, 8pm
San Miguel Writer’s Conference

Kathleen Hudson: Why did the San Miguel Writers’ Conference decide to premiere this film?

Susan Page: We are very excited about Rituales as a bilingual, multi-media experiment. I was touched after seeing the video early in 2015 and have followed its completion with great interest. Tim and cinematographer Bernard Celakowski were keen to treat the final video as a work in progress and have added sections that are meant to enhance the effects of the shimmering set designs and multiple camera angles, such as transparent layers of color, choreography, and movement.

KH: Why did you choose video as a medium for presenting your poems?

Tim Hazell: Poetry needs to be liberated from books and the impression that it’s an academic pursuit. Urban forms such as slam, punk, hip-hop, dub, conceptual verse with musical improvisation, and readings for several actors have brought poetry to a much wider audience that wouldn’t have paid attention to the art form a generation ago. Some of our greatest modern writers are also performers and producers of their original work.

KH: What do you think has been the effect of adapting the text to Rituales, the play that the Sala sponsored in 2013, and Rituales, the current experimental bilingual film?

SP: The results are embodied poetry on stage. The Rituales premiere is a significant literary event for me. Tim originally approached us about getting the Writers’ Conference involved, and of course we accepted. It’s a gift for us to contribute to such a creative literary project.

KH: Could you elaborate a bit about the roles that Lilia Tràpaga and Ken á played in the production?

TH: I was lucky to be able to bring four epic poems to life with theater director Lilia Trápaga and nine actors from the El Caldero Theater Troupe. My colleague Ken Bichel is a renowned composer and virtuoso pianist who has championed experimental music since his pioneering work with Moog synthesizers in the early 1960s. His ability to instantly come up with musical counterpoints to my readings in performance was uncanny. Ken’s text-inspired improvisations evoking water, fire, wind, and earth drove the words forward in a dynamic way.

Rituales is intended to represent the cultural crossroads of San Miguel, with its Mexican, European, and American cast and technical staff, and the native elements of its themes. Tim Hazell performed with the indigenous musicians of the group Caracol de Fuego (Conch of Fire) from Mineral de Pozos for 10 years and was the artistic director of the pre-Hispanic music workshop and ensemble Collar del Viento (The Wind’s Necklace). He uses native instruments in his current Pro Musica program “Rhythm, Rhyme, and Reason” and has published over 200 articles dealing with aspects of native culture, trade, aesthetics, and philosophy. The four poems that make up the Rituales screenplay represent traditional indigenous themes of water, fire, wind, and earth.

Early filmmaking in Mexico began with Salvador Toscano Barragán. In 1898 Toscano made the country’s first film with a plot, titled Don Juan Tenorio. During the Mexican Revolution, Toscano recorded several clips of the battles, which would become a full-length documentary in 1950, assembled by his daughter. Other early short films were either created or influenced by French film makers.

Like Water for Chocolate, a 1992 film based on the popular novel published in 1989 by first-time Mexican novelist Laura Esquivel (conference feature speaker in 2014), earned all 11 Ariel awards of the Mexican Academy of Motion Pictures, including the Ariel Award for Best Picture, and became the highest grossing Spanish-language film ever released in the United States at the time.

San Miguel’s collaboration with Guanajuato’s Expresión en Corto Film Festival and the city’s role as host to other international film organizations such as Sundance, make it a strong future contender for video, short- and feature-length productions. Rituales is part of an international wave of new alternative films that make use of current digital technologies to develop ambitious video projects on location, with tight shooting schedules and themes that are “outside of the box.”

For information about all of our events, including the Rituales film premiere at Belles Artes and the conference in general, to register for conference packages, or to purchase tickets for individual events, visit our website at To purchase tickets in person, contact Nathan Feuerberg at nathan@sanmiguelwriters


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