Sunday, May 8, 2016

DVDebut -- Justin Webster's documentary, GABO: The Creation of Gabriel García Márquez

Among the most internationally popular novelists of the 20th and early 21st centuries would have to be included the Colombian-by-way-of-Mexico writer and Nobel Prize winner, Gabriel García Márquez. As well-known as is his writing, I wonder how many of his fans know much about his history. That can now be easily remedied via the new documentary, GABO: THE CREATION OF GABRIEL GARCIA MARQUEZ ("Gabo" is the nickname by which the writer was lovingly known).

Written and directed by Justin Webster (shown as right), the movie's subtitle, "The Creation of Gabriel García Márquez," may at first sound a bit off-putting, as though Márquez was somehow "manufactured," in the way that so much of what is given us culturally these days seems to be. But, no, the subtitle makes very good sense because this fine documentary explores so much that went into the life experience of this man that led him down the path to becoming the excep-tional writer he was.

So, yes, we get history -- of family, politics, economics and the like -- and plenty of talking-head interviews of friends, family, along some rather important people (did you know that former President Bill Clinton was a huge fan, claiming One Hundred Years of Solitude as his all-time favorite novel?). Mr. Webster  blends the personal and political quite adeptly, letting us see and better understand Márquez's strong connection to everything from his native Colombia to Cuba and Fidel Castro.

Can  you imagine the American populace turning out in droves to honor a mere writer?  (Maybe, but not since the death of Sholem Aleichem.) That's how Latin American responded to this man when he was alive, and the movie offers up plenty of clues as to why this should be so.

The documentary is indeed an appreciation, but, as one friend notes about Márquez early in his career, "He had come under the influence of Bogotá," cultural capital of Colombia. Which meant that he'd become snobbish, sexist and full of himself. But this was simply one more progression along the way and probably not much different from the experience of many talented South American men of the day. (On the movie's plentiful extras, an actress and former lover of Márquez fondly recalls her time with the man.)

His regard for and ability at journalism, captured beautifully here, stayed with Márquez for life. Despite Cuba's human rights abuses, so did his love and respect for Fidel Castro. (There's a wonderful shot of Fidel, Márquez and Ted Turner included in the terrific archival and newsreel footage.) We watch in wonder as each new book appears, and Webster gives us plenty of ammunition to better understand from where and how these works arrived. (Among the many lovely anecdotes included here is one about his wife, some back rent, and a fortunately trusting landlord.)

If you're a Márquez fan, unless you already know a lot about the man, the documentary would seem a "must." If you're a newcomer to his work and life, Gabo: The Creation of Gabriel García Márquez will make a fine introduction that will very probably set you to reading that work. From Icarus Films the documentary hits the street this Tuesday, May 10, for purchase or rental.

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