La Balada del Oppenheimer Park - 2016

La Balada del Oppenheimer Park - 2016

In The Ballad of Oppenheimer Park, a band of First Nations people occupies a Vancouver park. Singing, drinking, and performing within the park’s limits, they enact daily rituals that complicate their histories of oppression and resistance.

– edited and produced by Isidore Bethel / directed by Juan Manuel Sepúlveda

– 71 minutes, Fragua Cine, Zensky Cine, IMCINE (sales), Sokol Films (French distribution), Torch Films (US distribution)


– Best Documentary Nominee at the Arieles (Mexican Academy Awards), Grand Prize at Riviera Maya Film Festival (Mexico), Best Documentary at Málaga Film Festival (Spain), Grand Prize at Zanate Film Festival (Mexico), Special Jury Prize at Santiago International Documentary Film Festival (Chile), “Immaterial Heritage” Special Mention from France’s Ministry of Culture at Cinéma du Réel, Special Mention at DocsMX (Mexico City International Film Festival), Cartagena Film Festival (Colombia), Guadalajara Film Festival (Mexico), Valencia International Documentary Film Festival (Spain), DOXA Documentary Film Festival (Canada), Vancouver Latin American Film Festival (Canada), Ânûû-rû âboro – Festival International du Cinéma des Peuples (New Caledonia), Dokufest (Kosovo), Belo Horizonte’s Documentary and Ethnographic Film Festival, work-in-progress screening at the Flaherty Seminar, among others

– acquired by the Pompidou Center’s BPI (Paris public library), broadcast on e-flux

The Hollywood Reporter: The Ballad of Oppenheimer Park “offers up an intimate group portrait that can be both heartbreaking and hilarious, focusing on a few lost souls banding together against the raw deal handed to their tribes.”
Le Monde’s Jacques Mandelbaum: “The film conjures up the most shocking and poignant images imaginable.”
La Jornada: The film’s “gambit consists of lucidly and strategically dispelling the humanist discourse towards which most documentary filmmakers tend – which doesn’t explain anything and naturally doesn’t solve anything either…Instead, Juan Manuel Sepúlveda, much more handily than in his two prior features, underlines the scandal and absurdity of social marginalization and lyrically suggests what, in due time, its devastating aftermath might be.”
Mediapart: “The titular ballad is a bitter one for the residents of Oppenheimer Park, and it aptly conveys the mismatch between the identities of those onscreen and the myriad of fantasies that the external world imposes on them…Always seeking out the right place for the camera, never intruding, Juan Manuel Sepúlveda’s filmmaking strives to liberate those whom others’ gazes have imprisoned.”
El Universal: “It’s a fictional or semi-fictional adventure film that constructs and deconstructs itself as it goes along, reflecting glimmers of an ever-distant, barely discernable, unprecedented, inexpressible, unclassifiable, and always-elusive underclass resistance…This underclass resistance avoids the pitfalls of poverty porn thanks to its militancy – abrupt and indefinite, visceral and amorphous, and yet communitarian and vehement in spite of it all.”
The Georgia Straight: The Ballad of Oppenheimer Park “captured camaraderie in hard times, dark humour in the face of oppression, and, more than anything else, simple community.”
Discorder Magazine (CiTR): “As Sepúlveda’s controversial role in the making of Ballad enhances the film’s trope of colonial threat — threat to honor, threat to freedom and threat to this newly imagined ‘frontier’ — the audience is left with a ballad sung in two key tones, complex, but clear.”
Icónica: “Showing First Peoples’ daily life necessarily involves revealing the flip side of progress and modernity in so-called First World countries like Canada, making explicit the roles of veiled forms of violence and exclusion in these former colonies’ national identity construction. This contradiction, intrinsic to modernity and progress, of which, whether we like it or not, we are a part, is what Juan Manuel Sepúlveda invites us to consider – not via modern colonialism’s persecution of indigenous peoples but instead via our ways of continuing to develop society.”
Arsenal Film Institute: “The Ballad of Oppenheimer Park is a deeply empathetic documentary dedicated to the daily reality of indigenous people…When the director introduces artefacts from the past – arrows, wagons, headdresses – to the setting, it offers them a playful opportunity to celebrate their heritage on their own terms.”
Correspondencias: “The Ballad of Oppenheimer Park, via its listening, its patience, and its collaborative premise, unpretentiously deals in more than wounds from an atrocious past. It courageously interferes with unilateral fictions, multiplying and dispersing representational possibilities. Rather than officially documenting, it forges its own history of colonialism.”
EnFilme: “The Ballad of Oppenheimer Park offers a close, sincere, and respectful look at a small section of Vancouver’s Downtown Eastside…It captures camaraderie in hard times, dark humor in the face of oppression, and, above all, the actions and feelings of this modest community.”
Gatopardo: “Instead of depicting a story of persecution and violence, Sepúlveda portrays a group of indigenous people who have left reservations and who now drink, play cards, and chat in the middle of a city – via formal means that comfort and even entertain them.”
La Opinión de Málaga: “The narrative’s originality comes from its attempt to fictionalize without avoiding the extremes of reality.”
cinestel: “We have to wonder if what we’re seeing is an authentic document or instead a reflection of a desire for representation, for the delivery of a message…In any event, The Ballad of Oppenheimer Park’s food for thought is brilliant.”
Linne: “It’s a filmic exercise that avoids explicit mention of the social issues viewers might otherwise seek. Instead, audiences must consider the situations that unfold according to the order and cuts that structure the film.”
CineramaPlus+: “In this documentary journey…we see [the protagonists] inhabit this non-place, filling, occupying, and overwhelming it and as such developing a way of life…As the their universe unfolds, being there involves making the place their own.”
Zanate Film Festival jury statement in El Proceso: “Via a clear and contemplative study of space, the director represents the realities of communities experiencing systemic violence on a daily basis and facing ancestral tensions between oppression and resistance. It’s an intimate and raw portrait of the future that it seems we will have to endure.”

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