What does this mean?, asked Hassath, pointing to «La
Hora de los Hornos» in an article about documentary films.
The hour of the… something.
And just like that, a flood of memories swept me twenty years back in
time to the Argentinian pampas, which I had experienced time and again
through Gerald Durrell's marvellous writings. I remembered the story of
a tough gaucho moved to tears as he recounted how he—in a moment
of uncharacteristic sentimentality—rescued a small bird whose leg was
stuck in the wet clay with which it was building its nest. The bird,
once freed, perched a few feet away and poured its heart out in song, as
if to thank the enraptured cowboy.
The bird's name, Hornero, was what triggered a memory so vivid
that, just for an instant, I could almost smell the clay and feel a
dry, dusty wind stinging my cheek.
Horneros, named for
the resemblance of their round clay nest to a horno, an old
wood-fired oven. Ovenbirds.
Furnaces. That's it. The Hour of the Furnaces.
Hour of the Furnaces is a 1968 documentary by Fernando Solanas
and Octavio Getino about the struggle against neo-colonialism in
Argentina. The title quotes Che Guevara who, in turn, was quoting the
nineteenth-century Cuban revolutionary leader and poet José
Marti: "Now is the time of the furnaces, and only light should be seen."
The film is in three parts, and is 260 minutes long. Hassath, who has
seen it, recommends it highly.
My treasured collection of Gerald Durrell's books is long gone, given
away over the years; and now, I have a film to watch that will teach
me very different things about Argentina. But it will also always remind
me of a small brown bird celebrating its freedom with a song.