An Atlas to the Night & Other Electric Flowers


16 mm + HD Video with sound

Excerpt here

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Directed by Natalia Lassalle-Morillo

Texts written by Marigloria Pama, Natalia Lassalle-Morillo
and the ensemble
Translations by Natalia Lassalle-Morillo and Carina del Valle Schorske*
*(for “Friend, This is What Hurts, a Mega Poem” and “From The Night [Selections]”)

Produced by CalArts Center for New Performance ; Co-Produced in Puerto Rico by Elisa Peebles, Sofía Gallisá Muriente, Yara Travieso, and Anayra Santory.

Marigloria Palma is a Puerto Rican poet, playwright, and interdisciplinary artist who spent 20 years of her life in Los Angeles, observing Puerto Rico’s colonial struggle from a distance, and embodying the experience of displacement and in-betweenness that comes with simultaneously inhabiting two politically and culturally opposed homes. Through an intuitive filmmaking process carried out with CalArts artists in Los Angeles and by Lassalle-Morillo in Puerto Rico, this work-in-progress multimedia film project explores Marigloria’s writings as a poetic act of resistance, crafting a cinematic and performative atlas that meditates on the colonial relationship between Puerto Rico & the United States, and investigates how a territory’s ecology, collective memory, and cosmology affect the consciousness of those who inhabit it.

Director’s Note (here & below)

The poems, letters and written works that conform this filmic experiment elicit an island in crisis. I collected them from Marigloria’s 1978 poetry book The Night, and Other Electric Flowers, title this filmwork references; from the poetry book “Versos de Cada Día” (Everyday Verses , published in 1980); and from letters I found while digging through Marigloria’s collection at the Puerto Rican National Archive. (The letters referenced in this film were in a file called “Interesting Letters I Sent or Received from Important People”).

In these selected works, Marigloria writes about a Puerto Rico “crucified by the sea”  that surrounds it– a sea that she also wants to “set on fire”. When I think of a “sea on fire”,  I imagine a red sea. This red sea automatically reminds me of:

“No, this my hand will rather the multitudinous seas incarnadine, making the green one, red”.

A sea on fire, a sea full of blood, a sea with not enough water to wash away the red from guilty hands. I’m reminded of Vieques [1941-2001], Cerro Maravilla [1978], 4645 deaths caused by Hurricane María [2017], 100 years of colonial interdependence with the United States of America.

While developing this project, I learned of the Puerto Rico trench, the deepest part of the Atlantic Ocean. This region is associated with the most negative gravity anomaly on earth, and is also responsible for the swarm of earthquakes that threatens the Puerto Rican archipelago since January 2020. Gravity, a red ocean, Marigloria’s “Night”– all erotic forces that pull us, regardless of distance, towards this Caribbean axis. They are emotions, gut feelings, stomach grumblings, that cannot be explained with logic. Beyond logic, Marigloria offers us her “deranged, sensual, obscene and fertile” Night.

This project is an experiment guided by the premise of rehearsing for a film that is continuously in-progress. Our goal was to carry out an intuitive filmmaking process ( a process that at times felt like an experimental performative ethnographic experiment) that translates the extensive rehearsal framework characteristic of theatre making processes to a filmmaking process. What happens when a film is continuously in progress?  The role of the performer transforms from one who embodies to one who observes. The actors aren’t only performers, but cinematographers, assistant directors, writers, lighting designers and set designers. They are a one-person band, trying to defy gravity during times of uncertainty.