One of the activities that launched the second day of activities at the Guanajuato International Film Festival and is considered one of the most important events surrounding the theme of Mexicomorphosis in this edition of GIFF was the Kafka Lecture that was taught by the much lauded Mexican journalist Sergio Sarmiento.
The Mayorazgo de la Canal House, also known as de Cultura Banamex, in San Miguel de Allende, was the setting for this conversation that, led by Mr. Sarmiento, touched upon the life of Franz Kafka, the centennial of the publication of his masterpiece The Metamorphosis, its protagonist Gregor Samsa and of course, the films that surround the author’s work.
Sarah Hoch, director and founder of GIFF, delivered a welcome speech, thanking the speaker for his presence, who had already been invited to the festival for a few years but for one reason or another couldn’t fit an appearance into his schedule. Host and historian Graciela Cruz López, on behalf of Casa de Cultura Banamex, took the podium to conclude the welcome speech, externalizing her great hospitality and cultural acquis to finally invite our lecturer to start the conference.
And so, Sergio Sarmiento, with a Bachelor’s Degree in Philosophy from the University of York in England and one of the most renowned journalists in Mexico, began his journey through history and transcendence and began his lecture on Franz Kafka and his masterpiece The Metamorphosis, which 100 years after its publication remains extraordinarily current.
The tale beging with this disquieting episode we all know by heart: Gregor Samsa, a salesman, gets out of bed one day transformed into a monstrous insect. It’s an undisputable masterpiece. As such, its interpretations are endless, probably due to its acute and direct prose. That infinity of our endless postponement, our endless labyrinthine nightmares, those endless faceless bureaucracies where no one is informed of anything, which has been the through line in Kafka’s work.
Sergio Sarmiento brought up authors that represent the elite in literature, such as Sartre, Borges, Camus and Beckett, whose work the lecturer insists we can’t delve into without eventually landing on Kafka; he continued by quoting De cronopios y famas by Julio Cortázar, One Hundred Years of Solitude by García Márquez and Chac Mool by Carlos Fuentes, all of which were influenced by Kafka in a way.
Taking advantage of the space offered by GIFF, Sarmiento listed the films that are most relevant to the life and work of Franz Kafka, highlighting The Trial, directed by Orson Welles and starring an A-list cast, as well as The Castle, by Michael Haneke, Kafka, by Steven Soderbergh and a few short films, all of which are included in the official Schedule at GIFF. He mentioned a few other films that, even if they’re not related directly to the author’s work, are probably worth of being called kafka-esque. Movies like Terry Gilliam’s Brazil and Ridley Scott’s Blade Runner.
Kafka once said, “If the book we are Reading does not wake us, why read it?” The Metamorphosis is a story that grabs us, leaves us considering and reflecting on the meaning of life which is one reason why Sarmiento believes it’s the greatest piece of literature on the planet. Franz Kafka, despite not being one of the most read authors, he’s known as an author everyone is reading through secondary sources. Sergio Sarmiento concluded the lecture by citing the author: “Literature is always an expedition towards the truth and this can also be imaginary.”
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