Leo to Life

Julio Suarez | Spain | 2017 | 70 mins



A group of people are attending the screening of an interview with Leonela Relys, a humble pedagogue who created a simple literacy method, “Yes, I can”. With this method, more than 20 million people have become literate in a bit more than one decade. A didactic and innovative method awarded by UNESCO and which has represented a new hope in the struggle for a literate and cultured world. ​

Leonela’s words, along with the participation of other characters, are the common thread of this document that goes deep into the problem of illiteracy. Testimony to testimony, we are discovering the germ of all the inequalities, discriminations and injustices that hit the world. Illiteracy is not only that you cannot read or write. It is not only a problem of the Third World.

Illiteracy, in any of its variants, goes with each person and each community. If we are unable to identify and eradicate it, we will contribute to the perpetuation of poverty and exclusion of an important part of the world society. ‘Leo to life’ is more than a documentary; it is a guide that questions us and invites us to analyze how free we are of illiteracy, especially political illiteracy. In the journey of life, it is like holding a humble oil lamp in the middle of the deepest darkness.

About the Filmmaker

Julio Suarez studied production at ERAM, a specialized audiovisual school linked to the University of Girona. He is the founder of the LGC Films production company. In 2015, he held a management workshop with the prestigious director Abbas Kiarostami. In February 2016 he would receive another renowned influence that would serve him in his documentary works: Patricio Guzman. For a week he received all the guidance, from the prestigious Chilean director, necessary to carry out his future work. This influence can be perfectly observed in his last documentary work “Leo a la vida” (2017).

More from the Filmmaker

Quite often, person-focused documentaries are usually about illustrious people or well-known people who have achieved worldwide acknowledgements and captured covers of mass media. That fact makes the documentary attractive, because the spectator is always interested in the life of people who have managed to stand out above the others.

Our project is very different. The main character of the documentary, Leonela Relys, has not been the centre of attention of the mass media around the world. She is not a celebrity. Her name is unknown for most people…. because she has always wanted it to be in that way. Leonela is a humble person. A modest school teacher, with complete vocation.

Leo, as she is named in her family, has never wanted to stand out, or to be more important than anyone else. She has always been in the background or in the background of an audience, without distinction. Then, you will ask yourself, “What makes a documentary about her so interesting?” ​Although for me, it is an enough reason to focus on a character with these traits, because from modest people you can learn as much or even more than from illustrious people.

The contribution that Leonela has made to humanity was what encouraged me to start this project. This modest teacher, Doctor in Pedagogical Sciences, is the inventor of the fastest and the most efficient method of literacy for people who do not know how to read and write, ‘Yes, I can’.

​Through this method, more than twenty million people have been literate, becoming the most important pedagogical method of the moment. This fact led UNESCO to award this program and its author with the King Sejong Prize in 2006. That was the fact that encouraged me.

The starting point of this project was the contribution that Leonela was making to the world, causing a debate about “illiteracy” and their relationship with the process of history.

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