Maricarmen Graue is a Mexican cello player; she plays in a rock band as well as in a chamber orchestra. She is also a music teacher, writer and marathon runner, and she lives alone even though she is completely blind. In 2019, Sergio Morkin directed a film about this extraordinary woman’s life. The documentary “Maricarmen” will premiere in the UK at the IberoDocs festival: Ibero-American Documentary Film Festival Scotland, which will take place between the 19th of April and the 2nd of May. Monica Martins, founder of WomenBeing Magazine, had an intimate conversation with Maricarmen which has now been published as an interview.
By Monica Martins and Lucy Planet
Picture credits: Maricarmen Película on Facebook
Maricarmen, how and when did your love for music start, and when did you decide that you wanted music to be your professional occupation?
My love for music started with my family, I was very close to music when I was a child because of them. We sat together to listen to music, they pointed out the different instruments to me and I had a lot of fun with that. That’s how my love for music started. And well, dance also allowed music to reach my body. When I was a child I studied dance and that helped a lot too. I became aware that music was something very important because it helped me express what I wanted to say sometimes, things that I could not express in any other way, and that’s how my love for music started. One day out of the blue, it became the most important thing in my life.
Apart from being a music teacher, you are also a plastic artist, an athlete and a writer. How do you coordinate your time with all these activities?
Well, it requires some time for one to organise herself. Sometimes it’s not easy to get organised because there are priorities and where I invest my time mostly is in music. However, writing is the mirror of my life and I like to write because it’s a medium I use to express my feelings through, using a diary entry like structure. I workout to have fun and when I have time I feel a need to express myself. I love to feel shapes in my hands, shapes that I can’t see, but that I can get close to using my hands.
I have watched Sergio Morkin’s documentary titled Maricarmen. How does it feel to know that Sergio considered your life to be documentary material?
I am very pleased, I liked that he chose me as his character. I believe that it was partially for the love I have for what I do, my life. I am very pleased with the comments that we have received about the film too, people say it is very good. If the film is good, if it truthfully shows some aspects of my life, then I believe it’ll be helpful for some people. Hopefully it can motivate some. I’ve also heard that it is very beautiful visually. I feel very happy to be part of it.
How do you feel about the way your life is portrayed in the documentary?
We filmed many aspects of my life but Sergio had to choose what story he was going to tell. So, he chose my relationship with my mother, the topic of disability and my relationship with music. However, sometimes I feel that my humour is missing there. I like to add humour to everything I say, and you can see that in the film too. But I think that the themes he chose are good and the film is excellent.
And how was your participation in the documentary? Did you help with its creation, apart from being the main character?
I think so, we worked together in the creation of the documentary. We both decided what was going to be included and what not. He listened to me. It was a mutual agreement. There was always a lot of mutual respect. He didn’t add anything I didn’t want to be included in the film and I’m very grateful for that. It shows things that I’m happy with people knowing about me. Maybe sometimes people can’t really see my humour or my playfulness, but what was included in the film was agreed by both and I think it’s good.
This film is important for all of us because it will allow us to witness the day to day life of visually impaired people. How do you feel about being such an important agent in such a special documentary?
I think we are in a moment of the History of humanity in which people are becoming more conscious of the fact that people with disabilities are not a burden for society. We have our rights, we just function a bit differently. We also contribute with our activities and thoughts, and I think it is important to show that we are also part of this world. It’s important to understand that we are all different, even so-called “normal” people don’t really exist. I believe that in Mexico we are still processing this, there are many issues regarding accessibility still, the film shows a bit of that. In general, people don’t know that some people function differently and have to be supported and at the very least respected. I think this is something important regarding the film too, because it helps to raise awareness about the things that we go through. It doesn’t mean that we are less, we must understand and respect the needs of other people.
We can see your mother in the film too. Would you like to tell us a bit about your relationship with her while you were growing up? And also how it is now as an adult woman?
I think that this film has helped to improve the relationship between my mother and me. That’s one of my favorite things about the film and one of the things I’m most thankful for. Thanks to it, both my mum and I have opened up to each other much more. Apart from the relationship with my mother, the film helps others understand that human relationships sometimes don’t work because we keep our thoughts to ourselves instead of sharing and resolving, we don’t share our feelings and we accumulate annoyance and resentment because we don’t speak up when we should. Because my mother and I managed to speak, to say how we felt to each other, now we have a more harmonious relationship: we love and need each other. This has helped me with other relationships too.
And how do you feel about the film being selected for the Ibero-American Film Festival of Scotland?
I am very pleased with it. I am very thankful. Marisol was my student here in Mexico and she spoke about the film to the organisers. I am very pleased that the film is being shown. The film is an example of Mexico, of disability and art. And I think it is a very beautiful picture, visually too. I think Sergio Morkin is a very good film director and I am very pleased that his work is being recognised.
This year IberoDocs Festival has changed, it is going to be a fully online festival and, for this to be possible, the organisers have taken an important step in terms of accessibility. What’s your opinion on this?
I think it is very good and very important. Festivals should always be accessible for people with any type of disability. It is very important that the festival is aware of this. I think that in Mexico we still have a long way to go, we are promoting these much needed changes and some artists are working on making culture accessible. It’s a right for any human being.
This year, the theme of IberoDocs is “Art as a need”. Is art a need for you, Maricarmen?
Yes, it is a need. It is important for human expression because sometimes words or what is happening isn’t enough to say what’s inside a person. Art goes beyond the surface, it delves deep into one’s emotions and I believe we all need to say what we have inside, and we can say it in different ways. It helps us become better people, to understand the world better.
Are you working on any other artistic projects, either in Mexico, nationally or internationally?
Yes I am. I am working on several projects. I am working with other disabled artists, we are finishing another film, but we are directing it ourselves. We received an award for it two years ago and we are now finishing it. It’s me and two friends: a paralytic writer and blind photographer. I’m also working on other music projects, mostly writing. With other disabled artists we are also making a photo diary of the pandemic. And I also have other personal projects like my sculpting. And whatever comes! There is a project that is being reviewed in a competition in the United States, the Lighthouse of San Francisco.
And what about your project Online Art and Culture Centre for the Blind? What is it about and why is it important for you?
It is connected to what the Lighthouse proposes. It focuses on the design of projects by and for blind people. I thought, if someone created a project for me, I would like an arts and culture centre for the blind. And at this moment everything is online because of the pandemic, and I believe it is important to do something like this. To give access to film, theatre, dance, literature, and also workshops, courses, all accessible! So, I want to partner with people who know about technology, platform management and blind colleagues who also know about technology so we can form a team that creates a space that works for us. Not a place that other people think works for us, but a place designed by us, adapted to our needs. I hope you give it a like on YouTube.
As music is probably your biggest passion, can you tell me if there is a specific piece that inspires you and why?
Ay, I don’t know, There are so many. But I like Bach’s suites. For me they are my musical structure. Each time I play Bach, I feel my emotions align with it, and my brain. I like to play Bach because I think his suites are such beautifully made pieces, so balanced. There are many, 36, but each one has its own character. I love to play Bach and also listen to it.