From the film The Return of Lencho.

El regreso de Lencho (The Return of Lencho) filmmaker Mario Rosales’s directorial debut, will be shown at Anthology Film Archives (32 Second Ave at 2nd Street) on March 6th (5 pm). This special screening is part of the Guatemalan filmmaker’s campaign to raise funds for completion of the independent film (color correction, music clearances, sound lab and marketing strategies).

The Return of Lencho tells the story of Lencho, a 30-year-old graffiti artist who returns to Guatemala after living in New York for a decade.

To see the trailer:

Eager to bring artistic expression to his home country, silenced by over 30 years of terror, Lencho assembles an artist collective to produce public art projects with social impact. As its first activity, the group organizes an art festival in Rabinal, a small, indigenous village in the Guatemalan highlands. The group’s work draws the attention of the director of an unofficial «social cleansing» program designed to squash dissension and youth organizing. As Lencho labors to coordinate the music, poetry and mural components of the festival, he finds himself increasingly haunted by memories of the death of his father, a journalist during the civil war. El Regreso de Lencho portrays one man’s journey to self-awareness and action: can Guatemala do the same?

Describing one of the challenges to filming in Guatemala, Mario explains:

«There’s no filmmaking tradition, therefore governmental and private-sector support is scarce. The whole movie was made with almost no funds. Also, the graffiti movement, like any other expression of «street art», is exploding onto the popular scene right now. This makes the government nervous. Looking at it as an expression not only of vandalism, but of terrorism. They’re afraid of people expressing their ideas freely through art.»

The film project came up against its own tragic reality when one of the main actors, Carlos (a.k.a El Chino) Chacon, a graffiti artist, breakdancer, & rapper who belonged to several art collectives, was assassinated when leaving the school where he taught breakdancing & rapping workshops. Mario explains that now more than ever, his objective is for the film to be «a tool for human rights groups to raise awareness about how our youth is unprotected from the irrationality of these «dark» groups that are forming now in Guatemala.»

What: El regreso de Lencho / The Return of Lencho. 1’37». Fiction. 16mm/HD. 2011. Guatemala. In Spanish, Kaqkchiquel, English.
When: March 6th, 2011 at 5 pm Tickets: $20 Where: Anthology Film Archives (32 Second Avenue at Second Street)
More info: If you cannot make it, please donate online

Director’s Bio
Painter, photographer and filmmaker Mario Rosales received his BA in Communication Studies from Rafael Landivar University in Guatemala City in 1999. Mario’s films and video-clips have been shown in many festivals. In 2001 through a fellowship at the University of Seville, he created human rights documentaries.

Mario came to New York in 2002 to pursue an MFA in Media Arts Production at The City College of NY. His thesis film «La Muerte de Diógenes» (The Killing of Diogenes), a fiction short, won best cinematography at the Cityvisions Film Festival in NY (2004). Next Mario directed the short «Amorfo: te busqué» (2006), which was screened in Guatemala, Spain and the U.S. and was an Official Selection in the 2007 Huesca Film Festival. Mario is currently a Senior Editor at CUNY TV, where he produce a magazine show called «Nueva York,» for which he won a NY Emmy for Best Magazine Series in 2009 & 2010. In Fall 2008, Mario began production on the feature film «El Regreso de Lencho,» filmed on 16mm over 31 days.

Filmmaker’s Notes:

1- Why is Graffiti art undervalued in many Latin American countries? And how is it seen in Guatemala?
Graffiti is definitely an art form; it’s like muralism with a need to express itself in public spaces. Graffiti is a «brother» of the murals in caves from the beginning of mankind. Graffiti Art started in NY in the 70’s and it was hit by campaigns saying that it was just vandalism. That bad propaganda has been exported to Latin America. So, for example, when we were doing all the preproduction in Guatemala, and asking for permits, we just used the word muralism, because Graffiti has such a strong negative connotation that we never used it. But after people have seen the movie, they’re telling me now how they appreciate Graffiti as an art form. In Guatemala, graffiti and other street arts are getting a lot of attention right now. But the problem is that the state is looking at it not only as vandalism, but as a terrorists act. They are afraid of people expressing themselves. That’s exactly what happened to Carlos (El Chino) Chacon, who’d been a graffiti artist, b-boy and rapper. Carlos belonged to several art collectives, and he was assassinated as he left a school where he taught breakdancing and rapping workshops.

2- As film director, what challenges did you face while making the movie?
Many challenges because there’s no tradition of filmmaking therefore the institutional support from the government or the private sector is very scarce. The whole movie was made with almost no funds. There was a new experience; a different creative process of how to make a movie with the resources that we have. During the production we had the support of Maxi Films, who gave us a truck with the equipment we needed to shoot.

3- What were the incidents and/or tragedies that surrounded the movie?
The biggest tragedy has been the assassination of the youngest member of the cast, Carlos Chacon, a.k.a. El Chino, that happened some months after we finished shooting, but it’s a clear that this is a case of what the movie intends to portray: the institutional violence against youth in Guatemala

4- How do you see this story from a Guatemalan perspective?
I’ve been living in NY, and when I started writing the script I thought about what it would be like if I went back to Guatemala. I was very careful to try not to have overly romantic notions take over my vision of Guatemala. Part of my research involved interviewing journalists in Guatemala, people from human rights organizations and people that I knew, that could give me a better image of what Guatemala is living right now.

5- What about the casting, the people you worked with?
The casting process took several months and I think the actors that work on the film are amazing; each one worked really hard doing rehearsals and getting to know their characters. To the point that the actor, Mario Lanz, who plays Lencho, was living the life of the character by working with graffiti collectives and being involved with human rights organizations.

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