Seen through the eyes of small, midsize and large Mexican maize producers, SUNÚ knits together different stories from a threatened rural world. It journeys deep into the heart of a country where people realize their determination to stay free, to work the land and cultivate their seeds, to be true to their cultures and forms of spirituality, all in a modern world that both needs them and despises them. SUNÚ reveals how maize and everything it gives life to could be lost forever, and shares a generous tapestry of simple, heartfelt messages for the farmers of the world and the city dwellers who could lose the capability to make important choices unless they act soon.
On Feb. 24-26, the Student Organization for Latin American Studies (SOLAS), in conjunction with the Latin American and Iberian Institute, hosted their annual Sin Fronteras film festival. The festival, held at the Guild Cinema in Albuquerque, is a student organized free event devoted to films about and from Latin America.
This year, SOLAS was fortunate to show Sunú, and to host the director, Teresa Camou Guerrero, who answered questions after the screening. While I was unable to attend all of the films shown over the weekend, Sunú spoke to me as its agricultural and smallholder focus is very much in-line with my own research interests.
As a member of SOLAS, I arrived early to help set up and was able to meet Teresa beforehand. Visiting from her home in Mexico City, Teresa was just beginning a film screening tour that brought her to Albuquerque and Santa Fe and will eventually take her throughout California.
Sunú, which has won awards from nearly a dozen different film festivals, shows us the reality of small, middle, and large maize producers throughout Mexico as they struggle to fend off the advances of Monsanto and genetically modified maize varieties. Maize, first cultivated in Mexico at least 7,000 years ago, is more than just an economic means to survival or a source of nutritional sustenance, for the maize producers in Mexico, it represents their identity and is an intrinsic part of their cultural and spiritual practices.
Mexico has prohibited commercial planting of the genetically altered varieties that threaten to disappear thousands of years of maize traditional and cultural heritage, although there is pressure from commercial interests and multinational seed companies to allow GMO corn (SourceMex, Jan. 17, 2017). With her documentary, Camou Guerrero aims to fortify the battle against GMO corn and to present to the world what exactly is at stake. One of the largest threats faced by producers of native corn is that of contamination. The possibility of imported GMO corn contaminating native varieties was the subject of an article we posted back in 2004 – evidencing the persistence of this problem (SourceMex, Sept. 22, 2004).
Camous Guerrero, in the clip below, speaks to the motivations of contaminating native corn:
With a background in puppeteering, Teresa’s connection to the subjects treated in this film may not seem like a natural fit. However, she explained to the audience that as an artist, she recognizes the power that the arts can lend to social movements and social issues, including the producer resistance to GMO corn in Mexico. In the clip below,
In this clip, Teresa further explains how she became involved with this subject matter.