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Transforming light

19 Jan 2016

Transforming light is a film about the 2015 Day of the Dead celebrations in Mexico City and how a multimedia lightshow blended old traditions with new technologies to spectacular effect. The film was produced by Jorge Benjamín Ruiz Gutiérrez and his team of film-makers at the National Autonomous University of Mexico (UNAM).

El Día de los Muertos (the Day of the Dead) is an annual celebration where Mexicans – and many others around the world – remember their deceased family and friends. It is a vibrant and colourful time of the year, featuring a diverse mix of arts and crafts, such as the orange “flowers of the dead” and the beautifully decorated models of Catrina, the “lady of the dead”. Festivities build up to the big day itself, 2 November, coinciding with All Souls’ Day in the Catholic calendar.

One of the spiritual elements is the belief that for this one day of the year, your deceased loved ones return to be with you again. Light plays an important role in this as it is believed to help guide the souls from the darkness into the light. In 2015 in Mexico City, the festivities were given a modern twist thanks to a new video-mapping technique used to project light onto traditional structures such as altars and decorative skulls. Transforming light documents the event, which brought together science, technology and art in a stunning visual performance. The results were enjoyed by many.

This is the final film in a series we have commissioned for the International Year of Light (IYL 2015), with each film telling local stories involving light and its applications and how they can affect people’s lives. The first film in the series follows an amateur astronomer seeking out a patch of dark sky amid the dazzling lights of New York City. The second is a film about the role of light in regulating sleep cycles. The third looks at how LED lights are helping students in a remote Indian community to study after sunset, and the fourth profiles some of the New York photographers who are eschewing digital techniques in favour of more traditional analogue methods. You can see all those films along with others on the theme of light in this video showcase.

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