El Último Arquero

Dácil Manrique de Lara, 2020, Spain

Well this is so lovely and touching, but also interesting, creative and enlightening.

The filmmaker is the granddaughter of Alberto Manrique, a Canarian artist who made his name in the 50s as one of the ‘Arqueros’ (archers), a small group of contemporary/avant-garde artists. His wife Yeya Millares is a musician. They raised 8 children and also their granddaughter. When they married, they swore to each other to never go to bed on an argument and to play chess after lunch every day.

So it’s a documentary about these interesting people, and a portrait of an artist at work. But it’s also a very personal exploration of Dácil’s family history (there is LOADS of footage from home movies – this is a family that liked to film itself), as well as a confrontation with her own past as she returns to the place full of memories, both warm and traumatic.

She appears in it, for the most part keeping the focus on her subjects; literally, like sitting in shadow at the kitchen table talking to her grandmother who’s in full spotlight, or sitting with her back to the camera.

But as the film develops, it becomes not just a tribute to the artist, but a film about her process of making the film. She analyses her journey of delving into the past, placing herself in the ancestral line by visually connecting the images on screen with the work of her grandfather, in content and style.

Sadly, Alberto dies before she finishes the film, so it becomes a memorial to him too. A really beautiful, thoughtful and lasting piece of work (and I watched it subtitle-free and understood almost all of it!).

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