Eugenio Polgovsky Ezcurra (Mexico City, 1977 – London, 2017) was a photographer, director, editor and cinematographer who worked principally in nonfiction genres. He began his career as a self-taught photographer during various trips through Mexico, Poland, the United States, and Canada. He later studied at the Centro de Capacitación Cinematográfica (CCC) in Mexico City, where he specialized in direction and cinematography and graduated summa cum laude. He made four long and medium-length films—Tropic of Cancer (2004), The Inheritors (2008), Mitote (2012) and Resurrection (2016)—for which he received more than thirty awards in Mexico and worldwide, including the Joris Ivens Award at Cinéma du Réel, four “Ariels” from the Mexican Academy, the "Coral" Grand Prize at the International Festival of New Latin American Cinema in Havana, the Mexican National Youth Award, and the José Rovirosa Prize, awarded by Universidad Nacional Autónoma de México. He also directed and shot numerous short films. In 2007 he founded the production company Tecolote Films; three years later he was featured director at the Robert Flaherty seminar. He was the first ever filmmaker in residence at Trinity College, Cambridge (2015-2017).
In 2015, he wrote:
I am an independent filmmaker, yet my background and creative point of departure is still photography. As a young man, I taught myself the techniques of developing and printing, learning to nurture the fundamental source of images: light. At the age of seventeen, armed only with a sense of curiosity and my Canon A-E1 camera, I started to take photographs of people's everyday experiences. Henri-Cartier Bresson influenced my search for what he described as the “decisive moment” to capture reality. During those years, I would print my photographs in the closet of the apartment where I lived in Mexico City. Working in this way, I won an international prize awarded by Unesco for a photograph taken during a trip to Poland, which portrays a pair of gypsy musicians made refugees by a war in the ex-Yugoslavia. In the absence of a professional school of photography in Mexico, I began to study cinematography, although I also became interested in screenwriting, directing, editing, and acting. However, since the beginning of my career as a filmmaker, I distanced myself from the commercial industry, where young directors copy cinematic ‘success stories’ and dress up business with narrative, instead of developing their own language.
Photography and editing constitute the axis of my cinematographic practice, since my films construct their narratives through the gaze, without depending on voiceovers or other forms of verbal description. Instead, I work with the poetic dimension of images, whereby visual metaphors can convey complex social realities and interweave a vision of the real caught between different ethical positions.
Andrei Tarkovsky said that as long as cinema was an art dependent on money, it would be an unhappy one. I belong to a different generation, for which technology has become more accessible, thanks to light video cameras, laptop editing software, and compact projectors and lights. This has brought a new dynamism to documentary film; it has broken free from the need for large budgets and has thus managed to explore both broad social problems and personal microhistories situated on the border between fiction and documentary.
Mara Polgovsky (PhD, University of Cambridge) is Lecturer in Contemporary Art at Birkbeck College, University of London. Having studied scriptwriting with Beatriz Novaro and film editing at the London College of Communication, she worked as a producer, co-screenwriter and assistant director on the four documentary feature films by her brother Eugenio Polgovsky and the educational projects Deworm the World (2008) and Learning Here and There (2010) - becoming Eugenio’s closest collaborator. Since 2017 she has dedicated herself to promoting Eugenio's work and rescuing lesser known films, taking curated programs to the Lincoln Center in New York, Documenta Madrid, the Institute of Contemporary Arts in London, among other venues. She works as a consultant at various festivals in Mexico and the UK and is in charge of the distribution of Eugenio's films (in conjunction with the Centro de Capacitación Cinematográfica and Piano Distribution). In 2022 she co-directed Eugenio's first posthumous film Malintzin 17, which premiered at the Tiger competition of International Film Festival Rotterdam (IFFR).