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Jaime Estrada Torres: Editor by intuition

14 years ago, a young Colombian left his homeland with his luggage full of dreams. Their destination was Britain. He sought to explore the complexities and contradictions of the human mind using his studies in psychology. But he went looking for the psychologist and the cinema found him. His thing was not psychology, or at least not as it is conventionally applied. His thing was the world of cinema and -especially- the world of editing.

It was precisely in an assembly room where Jaime Estrada began his career as an editor. After working for a brief period as an assistant on a film by an Indian director, he became an assistant editor.

"When I was asked to make the first cut, my hands were shaking. He had to cut with a blade and tie the tape with cellope. It was the only option I had to learn, because at that time it was impossible for me to attend a film school." Estrada would later become an advanced documentary editing assistant for the BBC and Channel 4 in London.

The first documentary he edited for the BBC belonged to a series aimed at commemorating the 500th anniversary of the discovery of America. "As a foreigner, being able to be part of the English film industry was quite a difficult experience, because at that time it was necessary to belong to the union of film workers. If you didn't get it, you just couldn't work.

Fortunately, to join the BBC you don't need membership in the union, and when a programme based on the history of tango, of which I was a part, aired on an independent channel, I managed to get accepted." The opportunity to start in an assembly room was vital to Jaime Estrada's training. According to him, it is the best place to learn to direct, "it is there where you begin to consider the set of scenes integrally: the framing, the composition, the configuration of the shots to fix the scene, and the rhythm that the scene has within the shot. It is there that they discover the essence of montage – the intrinsic music of images."

- Publicidad -

Rhythms and times of the masters

Parallel to this technical and creative training, Jaime was discovering the language and rhythm of editing in the work of François Truffaut, especially in The Four Hundred Blows; this film deeply impressed him with its rhythm and its temporal handling. Although the essence would be found in The Citizen Cane by Orson Wells, and in the work of two English directors who were decisive in his learning: Lindsay Anderson and Ken Russell.

From his experience as a Colombian immigrant in England he was inspired to write the script, produce, direct and edit a short film in 16 millimeters about the experiences of a Colombian couple in London. "From my first days as a student in Britain, when I had to divide my time between English classes and my job as a waiter and kitchen cleaner, I took the idea of bringing to the cinema the sad reality of Latin American illegal immigrants in Europe." The plot of the short film is accompanied by reflections of Colombians in London, including two political exiles, an artist and kitchen workers in the neighborhoods of London's underworld." The story reflects the drama of Colombians who, once they get their passport and manage to raise the money to travel, believe they have the world in their hands, and submit to the worst humiliations and unworthy conditions, hoping to one day improve their situation. Estrada Torres recognizes that the film has problems of conception, especially because of the little experience he had at that time to direct a film. "I was looking to do a work with a lot of spontaneity, but I still didn't have the tools or the knowledge to do it." However, the original idea is very valuable and, without a doubt, the film constitutes an admirable effort and a step in the cinematographic training of its creator.

In 1987, when he was working on the sound of a documentary shot in Bolivia and edited in England, he was called to Home Boy with Mikey Rourke; there he met Batman's editor, Ray Lovejoy. Three years later he would work as an assistant editor of this famous feature film based on the history of comic strips. This would make one of the dreams that had accompanied him since he was a child come true, to work in 'one of those films' that they exhibited in the mayor's office of his beloved Aguadas, the distant Caldense population where he was born. The recognition of his work was not long in coming.

A "sequence" of recognitions

Throughout the extensive career of Jaime Estrada Torres, his creative efforts have brought him great satisfaction. One of them, the making of a documentary for the BBC that was presented last year in England, about The Adventures of Don Quixote of La Mancha, directed by Mike Debb. The work, whose objective was to show the impact that Cervantes ' Don Quixote has exerted around the world, was part of the Bookmark documentary series, dedicated to the great works of universal literature. His work in the edition of documentaries for channel 2 of the BBC, specialized in classical and popular music, is also unleashed.

Estrada Torres also speaks proudly of his work in editing a Northern Irish film made in 35 millimeters, directed by N. G. Bristow. The film won the Gold Plaque at the Chicago Film Festival in late 1995, and has been screened at famous film festivals, including the Short Film Festival in London and the Edinburgh Film Festival.

- Publicidad -

To the list of recognitions, Jujuy is added 400 times. This short film, directed by the Argentine Miguel Pereira, and produced by the municipality of San Salvador de Jujuy to commemorate the 400 years of the founding of the city, won in 1993 the Colón de Oro for the best documentary at the Huelva Film Festival, Spain.

Towards the future their plans are ambitious. One of them, the realization of a feature film based on a story written in conjunction with the American author Norman Di Giovanni, who was a translator of works by Jorge Luis Borges. Setting Free, the name that would bear the film, is the story of a young Colombian who arrives in London looking for his own identity and is involved in a complex relationship with a Spanish woman who loves opera. The play has as its background Tosca, by Puccini. Jaime is currently looking for financing for the film in Colombia or the possibility of making a co-production.

Today, Estrada Torres works as a specialized film editor for the North American company AVID, a leader in the production of digital editing equipment for film and video. Among the long list of famous films that have used AVID technology of digital editing and effects are Ace Ventura, Assassins, The Bridges of Madison County, Jumanji, Sabrina, Apollo 13 and Maximum Speed, among many others. Of course, digital publishing not only provides film professionals with all the technology, but is in itself an instrument to give free rein to imagination and creation.

All the experience, knowledge and sensitivity for the assembly led Jaime Estrada to the academy. Under his guidance today, several trainees take part in film editing techniques workshops at Goldsmith College, University of London.

With an internal sense of rhythm

When asked how he would define his work in editing, Jaime categorically states that he is not an intellectual editor; "There are editors who can clearly explain why they cut at one point in the scene and not at another. In my case it is a completely emotional issue. I cut when I think it is necessary to cut, I am more an intuitive editor than rational. The same thing happens in music. Mozart is more intuitive than Brahms, the latter being more 'clinical' in approaching music. I consider that my conception of the assembly is based on the relationship I establish with the work I am doing. The rhythm I impose on the image has more to do with my sense of inner rhythm."

- Publicidad -

As a perfect connoisseur of the British film industry, he thinks that there are two fundamental aspects on which Latin Americans should concentrate more: discipline and use of resources. "From Hollywood," he says, "economics in storytelling, learning to tell a story and positioning the characters in time. We have all this in literature, why not have it in the cinema too?"

Today Estrada Torres continues to concentrate on editing, perfecting from there his career towards directing. His reflections on the future show that, even though Britain provided him with the opportunities to become a renowned publisher, he dreams of one day returning to his homeland.

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