When They Left (Cuando Ellos Se Fueron) is a documentary from Ecuador about a mountain hamlet where no one is left but some elderly widows. The film is available from the website as a DVD, but I don’t see it available on any streamers yet. It’s worth buying or keeping an eye out for it.
When They Left (Cuando Ellos Se Fueron) was directed by Verónica Haro Abril. Her grandparents and parents grew up in the village, called Plazuela. Over time, all the children and grandchildren moved to other places, and all the men died. It’s a village inhabited only by old women with lots of memories.
When she began filming there, Abril thought the film would be about her grandmother. Before she could finish it, her grandmother died. So she expanded it to include the other women still living there.
The women we got to know were happy and busy and full of life. They carried on with their chores, shared meals together, cared for their animals and gardens. As Gloria said, “I don’t have time to be sad.”
We watched as they climbed trees to gather lemons, or climbed into the back of a pickup truck to hitch a ride to the cemetery. They gathered honey, stood on stools and ladders to do things like plug in a precious radio, or sat in the sun and peeled seeds.
I loved the resilience and cheer the women felt. They were proud to show photos of their families, proud to show their homes (which were beautiful), proud to share their lives. They helped each other with some of the work, they called the radio station for their favorite songs on Saturday night when the station took requests. They fussed at each other and laughed together.
In addition to setting up a camera to follow the women’s lives or let them talk (and sing) about whatever was on their mind, there were many shots of the surrounding mountains. It was beautiful there. Seeing inside the homes and seeing the countryside around the village was like being in Ecuador. In just over an hour, this film shared so much about the power of women and about life in Ecuador. I’m glad to have been invited into these women’s lives.
There’s an Instagram account for the film. More very nice photos can be found there.
The trailer doesn’t have English subtitles, but the film does.
If you find this film on a streamer, please leave a comment so more people will be able to see it.