Living in a world dominated by media it can sometimes be hard to form truly informed opinions – it becomes easy to rely on images you are fed to provide information. This is one of the primary reasons people still fear Colombia, even though they emphatically shouldn’t. The images of the country purported by Hollywood depict it as a war-ridden anti-paradise, where people live in fear constantly.
The truth, as always, is far from what you see. Colombia, as you’ll know if you’re an avid reader of this blog, is a stunning meld of every landscape on earth, and some of the nicest people you’ll meet in your life.
Here at the Colombia Travel Blog we’ve spoken at length about the representation of Colombia in Hollywood, so today we thought we’d take a look instead at Colombia’s own representation of itself in film. We’ve got our Colombian friend, Valentina, to pick her top 5 Colombian films about the country. This way, if there’s violence depicted, at least there are questions and motives beyond the mere usage of Colombia as a symbol for conflict in the ‘ravaged’ Americas.
Over to you, Valentina…
The Strategy of the Snail (La estrategia del caracol)
The Strategy of the Snail, directed by Sergio Cabrera, is a classic of Colombian cinema. A slow-moving, beautifully acted film, it goes well against the grain of those films that glorify violence and drugs in Colombia, and instead focuses on the small details of the lives of real Colombians. Warm, funny and moving, it’s an essential for anyone interested in Latin American cinema.
Chronicle of a Death Foretold (Cronica de una muerte anunciada)
Based on the book by Gabriel Garcia Marquez, this film is every bit as detailed as its source material. The protagonist, Ornella Muti, makes a big impact throughout and made an impression on me when I first watched the film aged 12. It’s centred around a small village where a young man is knived to death, yet no-one is surprised. How and why he died forms the basis of the plot.
La vendedora de rosas
This is an independent Colombian film that was an official selection for the Cannes Film Festival in 1998. It’s a heavy film that takes an unflinching look at life on the street for some of Medellin’s most vulnerable citizens. It’s extremely well made, and the way they tell the story is fantastic. It’s easy to turn a blind eye to this kind of reality, but raw films like this are a reminder.
El Colombian Dream
Funny, colorful and lively, El Colombian Dream is about some young kids who get involved with drugs and end up with many problems trying to hide their addictions. The character of Jesus Elvis is one of my favourites in cinema. Why? His name is enough, but you should just watch it to see. The plot weaves together many different stories cleverly in a psychedelic but intelligent way. Not to be missed!
The Colors of the Mountain (Los colores de la montaña)
The newest film on the list, I watched this one recently and loved it. A coming-of-age story of sorts, there are few films that approach the situation in Colombia with such tenderness and subtlety, and still manage to show how people really live, beyond troubles and violence. Beautifully acted and shot, it’s a must-see for anyone who wants an insight into how the troubles in Colombia affect day-to-day life.
The films I’ve chosen may depict violence and drugs, but I think it’s important that these conflicts are represented in art, as they begin a discussion. There are realities like this all around the world, and it is important to address them. In Hollywood films I feel all too often the ‘discussion’ is non-existent. There are no questions, no motives, nothing more than the statement that ‘Colombia is dangerous’. We have had troubles, and it’s good some of these films address that, but I can’t wait for the next breed of films that might be brave enough to show what Colombia is like for so many of us: fun, joyful and beautiful.
Paul (& Valentina)