Interview with Filmmaker Keitlyn Alcantara (FOOD AS RESISTANCE)

FOOD AS RESISTANCE, 27min., USA, Documentary
Directed by Keitlyn Alcantara
Set in Tlaxcala, Mexico, a tiny state with a legacy of resistance, this documentary short presents archaeology as a key tool for remembering food histories that predate capitalist, colonial worldviews. In the late 1400s, the expansive Aztec Empire encircled Tlaxcala, cutting it off from trade – yet it remained an anomalous blip of defiance. Paleodiet analyses shows how, with a lens of abundance, the Tlaxcalteca turned to their surrounding landscape for sustenance and sovereignty. 500 years later, descendants of the Tlaxcalteca form part of grassroots food sovereignty movements, which look to the landscape as the solution to contemporary ills such as diabetes, financial stress, and depression.

Get to know the filmmaker:

1. What motivated you to make this film?
In part, it was the experience I had outside of my very dry and isolating dissertation work, when I began to meet and talk about food and plants with other people who shared similar nerdy plant and food passions. I felt love and admiration for both the people I was learning from through words, but also the plants, the ecosystems, the environments that were teaching me with experiences. I wanted to capture this feeling, and show the world the incredible work being done in this corner of the world.

2. From the idea to the finished product, how long did it take for you to make this film?
Technically a year (Jan 2021-Jan 2022), but the ideas for this film were percolating since I started working in Tlaxcala in 2015 – I just didn’t know they would become a film. When the pandemic began in 2020, cutting me off from my work in Mexico, and all of the people and places I was connected to, I dug into old material and old interviews out of homesickness. Then, in January 2021, we began a series of Instagram Live cooking interviews – a way to connect us across space (Tlaxcala and Indiana). I loved how Live transported people around the world into the kitchens and gardens of Tlaxcala, and by March 2021 I’d pulled quotes from these interviews and previous work, and hired a videographer to help me capture the images to go along with them!

3. How would you describe your film in two words!?
Plantastic Knowledge

4. What was the biggest obstacle you faced in completing this film?
This is the first film I have made, and don’t come from a film background, so I had to learn a lot of vocabulary in order to verbalize the idea I had in my head in a way that the person filming and the person editing could understand. They were very patient!

5. What were your initial reactions when watching the audience talking about your film in the feedback video?
The feedback was warm and supportive – people who put effort into really thinking about what they had watched, and what stood out to them, and why. It was rewarding to have the opportunity to hear so many different perspectives, and to understand the ways in which my ideas and vision were transforming as they were received and digested by people with both unique and similar backgrounds to mine.

Watch the Audience Feedback Video:

6. When did you realize that you wanted to make films?
I don’t know if I did! I am a visual person – I pay close attention to every single detail in a room – the fly on the way, the thread coming out of the carpet. I enjoy capturing details in a space. I also pay really close attention to people, and am very curious about their complexity. As I started to do the instagram live interviews that we drew from for parts of the film, I started to visualize how the voices and images of the people and places could come together to mimic some of the experiences I had during fieldwork.

7. What film have you seen the most in your life?
Probably something not at all cinematic, like Clueless or Sister Act.

8. What other elements of the festival experience can we and other festivals implement to satisfy you and help you further your filmmaking career?
My experience has surpassed anything I imagined so far, and I have enjoyed the structure you have.

9. You submitted to the festival via FilmFreeway. How has your experiences been working on the festival platform site?
It was incredibly easy to find and submit to films, even though I had no idea what I was doing. And so far so good!

10. What is your favorite meal?
A heap of Mexican rice, with an over-medium egg on top, mole sauce drizzled over everything, and fried plantains on the side.

11. What is next for you? A new film?
It was impactful to see people both enjoy and be surprised by the archaeological and biological data that within the academic world is seen as nothing really that new. I’m inspired to keep experimenting with additional educational films, that bring new life to things I’ve studied for years, but never really thought about sharing in this way yet. I’d like to dig deeper into the connection between archaeology, precolonial relationships to environment, and current climate crises (and solutions).


By matthewtoffolo

Filmmaker and sports fan. CEO of the WILDsound Film and Writing Festival

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