Thakur and Ocampo, southern collaborators

By Ignacio Anitua

The more arbitrary the number of an anniversary, the more one can say, the more the person will be honored. Nobel laureate Rabindranath Tagore was born in India 161 years ago and his birthday is still celebrated today. As part of the celebrations – Tagore was born on May 7 – a film by Argentine film director Pablo Cesar, about the relationship between the poet and Victoria Ocampo, and more specifically about his stay in Argentina, was re-released in India. Neighbor of San Isidro in the province of Buenos Aires.

The film, released in Argentina in 2018, is called Thinking of Him and contains two stories told in parallel: on the one hand, at the present time, a teacher tries to find himself again and embarks on an early journey in India; On the other hand, the story of the meeting between Tagore and Victoria Ocampo in 1924 is told in black and white.

Although Pablo Caesar has a long career spanning over forty years and thirteen feature films, with a keen interest in experimentation, he has probably returned to narrative in a more conventional way. Perhaps, an essential source of her narrative, though not the only one, was Victoria Ocampo’s book Tagore en las barrancas de San Isidro, which tells a number of stories and anecdotes that Caesar faithfully reflects on screen.

Tagore did not live in the mythical Villa Ocampo, which at the time belonged to Victoria’s parents, whom he was unable to refer to, but in a nearby house, belonging to other relatives, and the same canyon, also called Miralero. The days the poet spent there were unforgettable for him, as evidenced by the numerous correspondence he had with Victoria over the years.

In the foreword to that book, Victoria draws an essential distinction between the two most important men of India in the twentieth century, namely Mahatma Gandhi and Tagore himself. Although Gandhi was more politically involved in the independence process and, despite his recognized pacifism, did not believe in co-operation between East and West, Tagore was more open-minded and believed that no human being could be saved while being a pacifist. Distinguish from others.

Interestingly, or perhaps not so much, Paul Caesar, like Tagore, is an example of cooperation. A pioneer in co-production with Africa and India, he has discussed numerous South-South collaborations, promoting alternative methods of producing, promoting and distributing films from the global South. In fact, he was the first to co-produce between Argentina and India (unicorns, orchards), and the only Latin American to co-produce with African countries.

The third part of this puzzle, Victoria Ocampo is a clear example of collaboration. Although probably not particularly “south-south” based like Caesar’s, and probably closer to the universalism of Tagore or Borges. Argentine writer and tradition, Victoria, through her greatest creation, the cultural magazine Sur, was an example of collaboration between different regions of the world and artists. Victoria was a true patron of the River Plate, and in addition to Tagore, she sheltered other intellectuals (either on the pages of newspapers or in her own home), such as Waldo Frank, Pierre Drew La Rochelle, and Jose Ortega. y Gassett and, of course, George Luis Borges and Adolfo Bio Casares, who was married to his sister Sylvina.

Then, we see how the excuse of this Capicua anniversary leaves us – because perhaps they are there – something a little deeper: the task of understanding whether we are like Victoria, Caesar, Tagore, Borges and why not, Report Asia, in different countries. Towards cooperation, between different people.

(The author is an Argentine journalist, cultural expert, and master of history (UTDT).

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