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BAM Showcases Colombia's Post-Conflict Cinema

July 12,2016 03:15

In the last few years, the peace process has become part of Colombia's “collective mentality,” said Colombian producer Diego Ramirez, at Bogota and Cali-based 64a Films. “Colombia's cinema will naturally reflect this, becoming a means of reflexion and ...and more »

On June 30, the same day as Brexit, Colombia’s government and Farc rebels signed a cease-fire. Fruit of four years of negotiations, which president Juan Manuel Santos once compared to “swallowing toads,” it ends 50 years of bloodbath that killed 220,000 people, displacing several million more.This is a momentous moment for Colombia. It is also a defining event for its cinema. From July 11, 46 projects, nearly all Colombian, will be presented at the 7th Bogota Audiovisual Market (BAM). Another 15 movies screen, either in post-production or as completed films.National cinemas, especially as they mature, normally range widely in subjects. At 2016’s BAM, in contrast, nearly half the films presented, some 27 titles, work through the country’s huge sweep of post-conflict traumas, questions and debates on how Colombia should move forward.In the last few years, the peace process has become part of Colombia’s “collective mentality,” said Colombian producer Diego Ramirez, at Bogota and Cali-based 64a Films.“Colombia’s cinema will naturally reflect this, becoming a means of reflexion and a way of creating paradigms for the future,” he added.A few titles serve timely reminder of the terror of violence, caught, for example, in “Oscuro Animal,” the stories of three women who flee from Colombia’s lush forest, escaping domestic abuse, massacre or sexual abuse by one’s Farc commander. The film’s near lack of dialog gives scenes the sensation of nightmare, and a breakdown of human and humane communication.But most BAM titles -m and other key Colombian movies now in development – take a step-back from directly described violence to explore a wider picture: the origins of violence (“Birds of a Passage, Ciro Guerra’s follow-up to his Oscar-nominated “Embrace of the Serpent”); the search for justice (“Rosa Maria”) or just loved-ones, dead or alive (“Valley of Souls”), or the fate of demobilised guerrillas (“The Troop,” a project from two-time Cartagena Fest winner Johnny Hendrix).Such issues makes for complex stories.Another BAM project, docu-feature “Muchedumbre” (Crowd), weighs in as a documentary about a real fiction film, which its director left unfinished out of fear. This film was inspired by a real-life village in Colombia, whose inhabitants have equally been cowed into silence about events in the early armed conflict.In Laura Mora’s “Killing Jesus,” a 64A Films project which is based on a true story, a girl who witnesses the assassination of her father, a human rights activist, decides to get to know her father’s killer before exacting revenge.The civil conflict also mixes with other narratives.“Never Too Late,” from Alfonso Acosta (“The Crack”), is a noirish murder mystery set in a rain-soaked 1989 Bogota blasted by bombs, where characters just want to have normal lives. The main murder suspect, an innocent high-school student, is finally exonerated  finally. “There is always a second chance on earth. It is almost never too late,” the synopsis reads.The major focus is not on the armed combat, costly to reproduce and a genre in which Colombia has little expertise, but the impact of war on normal Colombians.A sense of fatality reigns in certain titles. In “The Elf,” from 64A Films, a mother loses her son, then battles an evil spirit which is turning her, with seeming inexorability, into an evil being.“The Smiling Lombarda,” an autobiographical docu-feature, depicts director Daniela Abad sculptor grandfather who sold his soul to Colombia’s drug lords, designing their houses. Abad only met him once, when she was a child. He was on his deathbed, but plied a wad of dollar notes into her hands, which she accepted. “It was “as if something in human essence was corrupt since its birth,” Abad comments, about herself.Post-conflict movies certainly don’t take in all of the high-profile titles at BAM. Many are auteur genre, such as “The Elf,” post-apocalypse “Sed,” set in a near water-less world, or immigrant thriller “The Murmur of Astracan,” about Nazis’ manhunt of Jews, newly arrived in 1930s’ Bogota from pre-WWII Europe.Starring a top-notch Argentine cast, led by Dolores Fonzi and Esteban Lamothe, upscale slasher “El diablo blanco” (The White Devil), from Argentina’s Magma Cine, reps part of a BAM celebration of Argentine cinema. Abener Benaim (“Invasion”) will talk up “Ruben Blades Is Not My Name,” a portrait of the singer-composer, his music and its impact. Among other attractions: “The Man From Rome,” an English-language Seville-set thriller which reps a big-screen makeover of “La piel del tambor,” a novel from Arturo Perez Reverte, author of “Queen of the South.”A clutch of titles already stress not so Colombia’s tragically violent past as the need to move on. As the five-day BAM export market unspools, Colombia’s Nairo Quintana, is the joint favourite to win the Tour de France, based on his hill-climbing.Fiction feature “Escarabajos” (Beetles) is inspired by the exploits of an earlier 1980s generation of Colombian road-racing cyclists, such as Lucho Herrera and Fabio Parra who won key mountain stages in the Tour de France.“Colombian cinema is marked by violence which is part of the country. But we wanted to come in from a different angle, use sport as a tool to show a different Colombia, to get out of this pidgeon-holing,” said “Beetles’” director Jorge Yesidt Vela Forigua.In animated feature “Un chico de acero” (Unbreakable Boy”), maybe the most on-the-nose-allegorical of all BAM movie projects, a boy steps on a mine, loses a leg, but finally manages to become a cycling champion, forgiving his uncle and trainer, who placed the mine.“We’re beginning to imagine a country under different conditions [to armed conflict],” Ramirez reflected.Colombia still has to approve the peace-deal via a referendum, which may come as early as September. If it does, expect more movies singing the country’s virtues, from its song and dance to landscapes and diminutive uphill cyclists.Related storiesIncentives Scorecard: Colombia Offers Cash Rebates, ReimbursementsLocarno: Colombia's Acosta Preps 'Almost Never Too Late'Mip TV: Music and Melodramas Lead RCN TV Colombia's SlateGet more from Variety and Variety411: Follow us on Twitter, Facebook, Newsletter

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