“Madelaine:” A Snapshot of Nicaraguan Artists in Exile

By Raul K. Bautista

HAVANA TIMES – Her active participation in the first National Dialogue convened by the Catholic Church after the April 2018 rebellion in Nicaragua would forever change her life. Madelaine Caracas read to Daniel Ortega and Rosario Murillo the list of the first students killed by the police and paramilitaries from April 19 to May 16, 2018, when the first meeting between civil society leaders and the Ortega-Murillo government began. She thus responded to the request for a list of the dead and contradicted Ortega in his face, who assured that there were no disappeared nor any political prisoners.

In a short film titled “Madelaine,” Nicaraguan filmmaker Leonor Zuniga takes us to that historical moment, to the anguish of repression and the pain and challenge of exile experienced by Madelaine and tens of thousands of Nicaraguans who have left the country due to the repression and terror imposed by the Nicaraguan regime.

Through Madelaine (a painter in her twenties), Leonor Zuniga inadvertently takes us to the main aspects of the April insurrection, the dangers of repression, loneliness, depression, calamity, anguish, and survival of the exiles.

Screenshot from Madelaine

After a year without painting, Madelaine gets ready for her first art exhibit, where she will confront for the first time the violent events that pushed her to exile. Jokingly, trying not to reveal her greatest longing, Madelaine tells her mother in a phone call that she is going to Nicaragua. Her fearful mother begs her not to do so because she will be imprisoned and even killed.

A illusion of the political exiles is that they may enter Nicaragua, and nothing will happen to them. Many who left in 2018 and returned to Nicaragua went back to prison, like Samantha Jiron. From time to time, we learn of someone who returned to Nicaragua for one reason or another and was imprisoned again.

The nostalgia for the hugs and affection of loved ones, friends, pets, books, goods, and the smells and tastes of the homeland, weigh heavily on those who were forced into exile, like Madelaine, who in her early youth was forced to face the loneliness and challenges of living in a strange country.

For Madelaine Caracas painting is salvation. It is a way to be herself again, to return to her usual creativity, to recover her essence, and preserve her sanity.

This sublime short film by Leonor Zuniga was presented on Saturday, August 12 at Sala Garbo in San Jose, Costa Rica, during the Central American Shorts Competition Costa Rica 2023. “Madelaine” is part of a series of profiles of Nicaraguan artists in exile undertaken by Roberto Guillen’s production company Tres Felices Tigres.

It will also participate in other international contests and festivals. And soon, people who want to watch it will be able to do so online.

Read more from Nicaragua here on Havana Times