Pablo Martinez-Zarate - "We Are More Similar Than We Are Different"




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Aug 03, 2016
by Jessica Franzetti
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Pablo Martinez-Zarate - "We Are More Similar Than We Are Different"

Mexican professor uses art and film to challenge narratives, portraying what it means to be a global change-maker Pablo Martinez-Zarate speaks during the 2016 Academy on Media & Global Change

“We are more similar than we are different.”

An ideology, that Pablo Martinez-Zarate says permeates through all of his work. He is the head professor of documentary film and digital narrative in the Communications Department at Iberoamericana University as well as a faculty member of the 2016 Salzburg Academy on Media & Global Change

Martinez-Zarate’s belief rings true in regards to the Salzburg Academy on Media & Global Change: this year marks its tenth year in existence, highlighting the value in uniting students from around the world to consider the role that media and civic advocacy can play in global change. This year, 70 students gathered at Schloss Leopoldskron for a program centered on global migration and the role of media in framing and constructing narratives. 

During the three week-long Academy, Martinez-Zarate who is also a filmmaker, artist and writer, provided a screening of his newest documentary project, ‘Global Shakers.’ Conceived by guest scholar, Tadzio Mac Gregor, the project aims to showcase the work of people around the world who work to make differences in their communities. The first film, in what they hope will be a series with up to twelve films, centered on the work of Alejandro Solalinde, a priest from southern Mexico who has been a staunch advocate for migrant rights in the country.

Martinez-Zarate described the screening of the documentary to the students, as one of the richest experiences that the project has gone through; “Firstly, there is great value in sharing the story of Central American migrants and the condition of migration in Mexico and Latin America, with a global audience. It is a topic that is not often portrayed or represented in global media.”

The documentary, which Martinez-Zarate and Mac Gregor expect to make public in early 2017, aims to showcase passionate, inspirational change-makers in all corners of the globe. “Global Shakers aims to infect people with the idea of becoming a global shaker. The idea that if you set your mind to it, you can change the world around you,” Martinez-Zarate explained in an interview with Salzburg Global.

“I think there are three elements to inspiring people. The first is to choose people that are themselves inspiring, who have stories that are really powerful on their own. Secondly, narrative choices, especially in art, affect feelings of inspiration; I think that is one of the powers of art, making us feel human. Finally, it is giving people the tools to get directly involved with the causes that we are telling the stories about.”

While the ‘Global Shakers’ project seeks to continue to capture the impassioned work of individuals in a multitude of areas across the world, Martinez-Zarate, although behind the camera lens, embodies what one might define as a global shaker. 

Focused largely on Mexico City where he lives and works, Martinez-Zarate’s previous work focused on highlighting commonalities and endeavoring to change narratives that have been created by the media. Ciudad Merced, one of the oldest neighborhoods in Mexico City, and thereby, the American continent, has largely been defined by the media as rampant with crime. However, Martinez-Zarate notes that this excludes the cultural richness of the neighborhood, so he worked to produce workshops, a book and a documentary about the community, culminating his research in an interactive site with a scaled model of the community. 

Martinez-Zarate’s many projects - from profiling migrant workers in Mexico City and interviewing high-profile convicts, to leading workshops in impoverished communities in Mexico in an effort to make filmmaking more equitable and accessible - all share a theme of highlighting the universal human experience. 

“One of my main interests is to draw a horizontal line in the way we portray reality, so I am not interested in vertical interpretations of reality that impose a view on the viewer, that make him want to interpret things from a certain perspective, but rather interpretations that allow the viewer fill out the gaps in their imagination.”

Pablo Martinez-Zarate is a professor at Iberoamericana University in Mexico City, Mexico and a faculty member of the 2016 Salzburg Academy on Media & Global Change. To learn more visit: