Birdsong as a way to overcome grief

José Carlos Sires, blind ornitholo who stars in the documentary ‘The silence that remains’. / CE

Screening of the documentary ‘The silence that remains’

The visual artist Amparo García presents her debut film this afternoon at the Florida Cinemas. A documentary about the story of a blind ornithologist and the loss of a loved one

Ramon Albertus

«A blue tit, a blackbird, a sparrow, there are the shrikes…». The scene is played by José Carlos Sires, an ornithologist who went blind at the age of six and who is seen in the middle of the field reciting the list of birds that he hears. First, alone; then together with a colleague, also an expert in birds; and later in one of the workshops that he himself gives to teach how to recognize the animals that fly through his calls.

Sires’s compelling story was enough to justify making a documentary. However, in the feature film ‘The silence that remains’ it is an excuse to deal with another great theme: loss. «The film started with José Carlos, but then it went through other paths. In reality, the film is the journey of a duel, the duel of Amparo, a woman », explains its director Amparo Garrido (Valencia, 1962) referring to herself in the third person. The well-known visual artist presents the film today, at 7:30 p.m., in the ‘Txoriastea’ cycle, organized by the Center for Environmental Studies (CEA), after its successful run at the Suncine festival (2020), where it won the award ‘Human Ecology’, and by Ecozine (2021), recognized as the best national film.

The interest in knowing more about that blind ornithologist arose as a result of the complicity that the filmmaker had with her husband and as a particular ‘inheritance’. «Just a few days before he died of a heart attack, my husband left me an article in the mailbox, which was titled ‘Amos blind for the birds’ and spoke of a certain José Carlos Sires, a blind ornithologist, who could distinguish more than 200 species of birds for their songs and calls and who also gave some workshops to teach how to enjoy Nature with all their senses».

Reading the report,
“wonderfully well written” by the journalist Araceli Acosta in the ABC newspaper, she felt that she had to meet the protagonist of that story. «Faced with the emotional devastation due to the death of my partner, to whom I could not even say goodbye, I only saw two options besides crying: throw myself off the balcony or look for José Carlos Sires, the protagonist of the article that Juan Carlos (my partner) told me left in the mailbox, or trying to do something with it… I thought that Juan Carlos, before he died, left me that article as an ‘order’”, Garrido is honest, acknowledging that this work has been a relief. «Nothing more healing than getting involved with a project, putting your heart and your five senses. Time passes and everything heals, and if on top of that there are people who like it, and there is recognition, it comforts and makes you want to continue».

Connection with nature

In addition to relieving her grief, presumably she has also taken a liking to recognizing birds by their song. Is she able to recognize as many birds as Sires? «Recognize someone by sight, although not many… By hearing many less, realize that I live in the center of Madrid and I don’t have the opportunity to hear anything but noise. But that will change soon », she points out. Apart from calming her grief, she affirms that with this tape she realized how important it is to be in contact with nature.

Better known on the art circuit than in the world of cinema, the visual creator is preparing a photographic series that will be exhibited in February at the ARCO fair, at the National Cancer Research Center (CNIO) stand. For this work, she has been inspired by research by Nobel Prize winner Elizabeth Blackburn. “The project is all about showing that stress shortens telomeres, thus longevity,” she says.

Closing of the cycle with entry to 2 euros

The film ‘The silence that remains’ marks the closing of the ninth edition of the ‘Txoriastea’ film series, organized by the Center for Environmental Studies (CEA). It will be with a screening at 7:30 p.m. in the Florida cinemas that will feature the presence of the director Amparo Garrido, a visual artist who has received recognition from the Architecture and Photography contest of the Ministry of Development (2000) or the ABC Prize for Photography (2001 ). Tickets to see her first incursion on the big screen can be purchased for 2 euros at the box office and on the web portal of the theaters.

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Birdsong as a way to overcome grief