Alexandra Cuesta is a filmmaker and photographer who lives and works between Ecuador and the United States. Her 16mm films and videos are portraits of public places and urban landscapes and the people in them. Reminiscent of documentary practices such as street photography, Cuesta’s work is also rooted in the poetic and lyrical sensibility of the avant-garde.
Early films such as Recordando el Ayer, Piensa en mí (Think of Me) and Despedida (Farewell) were shot in the United States and depict migrant neighbourhoods and diasporic communities (particularly Hispanic) with a poignant sense of longing and belonging. Fleeting moments, memories to be held as passing and elusive as the light is Cuesta’s primary medium. In 2016, following her return to Ecuador, Cuesta completed the feature-length Territorio (Territory), a fragmented account of her native country from the ocean to the jungle.
Recent works such as the autobiographical series Notes, Imprints (on Love) (2020 – ongoing) and the Structural/Materialist Lungta (commissioned by FICUNAM in 2022) foreground the act of filmmaking itself. Cuesta’s work is democratic but never neutral – it speaks from within. It is the result of a complicity and shared intimacy that is only possible for a filmmaker who is herself a migrant.
Recordando el Ayer, dir. Alexandra Cuesta, Ecuador / USA 2007, 9 min., 16mm, sound
A portrait of Jackson Heights, an area of Queens with a largely Hispanic population and New York’s biggest Ecuadorian community.
New York Portrait, Chapter III, dir. Peter Hutton, USA 1990, 15 min., 16mm, silent
Hutton’s sketchbook of mid-1970s New York, edited in three parts over twelve years, is a chronicle of indelible impressions and an act of urban archeology. The artist evokes the city’s delicate rhythms, tonal contrasts, and shifts of scale – scrims of white mist and black smoke, of gauze, cloud, and fluttering pennant… the slight rustle of a homeless man’s shirt; the flowery patterns of rainwater draining from a flooded street; and a winter fog rolling over the sandy rivulets of Coney Island, making of it a lunar park, removed from time.
- Josh Siegel, MoMA
Kristallnacht, dir. Chick Strand, USA 1979, 7 min., 16mm, sound
A deceptively simple film, focusing on reflections of light on water, seemingly at night. This innocence is recontextualized by its opposite. Kristallnacht refers to the ‘night of broken glass’, November 9 & 10 in 1938, when the Nazis expanded their persecution of European Jewry by destroying synagogues, looting stores and arresting thousands of Jews.
BEIRUT 2.14.05, dir. Alexandra Cuesta, Ecuador / USA 2008, 8 min., 16mm, English
On February 14, 2005, a car bomb went off in downtown Beirut. Minutes later, the whole world was being shown graphic images of the incident that would later trigger a national uproar. Holding witness to this event, and made during the production of another film, the film carries a sense of urgency and an accidental sketch of history.
Versos silenciosos a Quito y mi gente, dir. Michael Wood, Ecuador / USA 2019, 5min., Super 8 (digital transfer), silent
A hyperkinetic film poem about the city of Quito and its people. The film searched for lost places and lost words; a silent work created with Spanglish thoughts.
Los Angeles Station, dir. Leandro Katz, Argentina / USA 1970-1976, 10 min, 16mm (digital transfer), silent
A portrait of a small community living by the railroad tracks in the banana plantation region of Quiriguá, Guatemala. Originally a single take, this film is composed of alternating equal number of moving frames and frozen frames as the camera tracks alongside the train station.
Piensa en mí, dir. Alexandra Cuesta, Ecuador / USA 2009, 15 min., 16mm, English & Spanish with English subtitles
A contemplative meditation on public transport in a city known for its freeways and designed for those who own a car, Piensa en mí draws a filmic portrait of Los Angeles’ invisible population of bus-users.
With the support of Instituto de Fomento a la Creatividad y la Innovación (Gobierno de la República de Ecuador).