.Living in Exile

A Musical Voice of the Sandinistas

Two years ago, award-winning filmmaker Jon Silver, a longtime resident of Watsonville now living in Santa Cruz, was visiting a friend north of San Francisco, who told him about a musician from Nicaragua who had recently relocated to Santa Rosa.

Silver— bilingual, multicultural and a longtime leftist activist who had been politically inspired by the Nicaraguan revolution of the 1980s—was more than a bit surprised to find out that the musician was none other than Carlos Mejía Godoy, the celebrated singer-songwriter and poet who had played a significant role in the early stages of Latin America’s “New Song Movement” of the 1970s.  He was later a voice of the Sandinista uprising that swept his homeland in the following decade.

Silver went with his friend to meet Mejía Godoy, who, he discovered, was living in exile after speaking out against the right-wing dictatorship of Daniel Ortega, the former leader of the Sandinista Revolution who returned to power in 2007 on a starkly rightwing platform. Mejía Godoy soon became a critic of his former comrade and the murderous junta that now ruled his beloved country with an iron fist. He issued a public letter calling on Ortega “to stop the killing.” A short time later, he was warned by friends that Ortega’s henchmen “are going to kill you.”

Mejía Godoy took the warning seriously. He fled—first to Costa Rica, and then to Santa Rosa, where he has lived for the past four years.

During his initial meting with Mejía Godoy, Silver was immediately taken with the vitality of the now-80 year old musician. He was moved by his personal story as well as by the larger saga of Ortega and his current cadre betraying the spirit and egalitarian principles of the Sandinista Revolution. “Carlos’s stories about Nicaragua,” Silver recently noted, “combined with his charismatic presence and performative style as he shared his music and art immediately made me think he would be a great subject for a documentary.”

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The result, Living in Exile: Carlos Mejía Godoy, an at once delightful and compelling 15-minute filmic portrait by Silver, will be featured as part of an evening of short musical documentaries at the Watsonville Film Festival, to be screened Friday, March 15, at the City of Seaside’s Oldemeyer Center (986 Hilby Ave., just off Fremont Blvd.)

As a special festival treat, Mejía Godoy will perform immediately following the screenings.

Film veteran Silver, whose documentaries date back four decades and include Watsonville On Strike, his epoch chronicle of labor unrest in the Pajaro Valley canning industry in the 1980s and his more recent Foodie for the People, on India Joze culinary maven Jozseph Schultz, has made delightful use of Mejía Godoy’s own artwork in constructing his narrative, while also employing telling images by Susan Meiseles, Margaret Randall, Owen Franken, and Jorge Mejía.

But it’s Mejía Godoy’s sparkling presence and musical magnetism, along with his political conscience, that is at the pulsating heart of Living in Exile. “I can’t remain silent,” the musician-poet says during one interview. “I can’t remain indifferent

to the pain of so many people.”

Living in Exile: Carlos Mejía Godoy; Yo Soy La Reyna; and Maura will screen Friday, March 15, 6:30 pm, at the Oldemeyer Center in Seaside, 986 Hilby Ave.  A live performance by Carlos Mejía Godoy will begin immediately following the screenings.

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