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10 Must-See Films to Explain Colombia to International Students

11th May 2017 Posted by: Lina Cárdenas

IN THE last decade, Colombia has been earning its space in the film industry, not only because its landscape has served as a set for movies (like the biographic The 33, directed by Antonio Banderas, the horror Out of the Dark, starring Julia Stiles and the recent The Lost City of Z, starring Charlie Hunnam, Robert Pattinson, Sienna Miller and Tom Holland) but also because its particular cinema has captured international attention and achieved several accolades in the most prestigious festivals. The following list contains the must-see Colombian films that depict better the customs, social issues, reality and history of this South American country.

The Rose Seller (La Vendedora de Rosas)

This tells the story of Monica, a 13-year-old, who has created her own world in the streets of Medellín. This particular Christmas Eve, she’s selling roses to earn enough money to buy new clothes, gunpowder and to go out with her drug-dealer boyfriend. However, nothing goes as planned for her. She’ll find that night full of loneliness, poverty, addiction and even death. La Vendedora de Rosas was released in 1998 and most of the cast were “natural” actors, as the director wanted to show the rawness in the lives of the outcast in a very unequal society. Most of the actors are currently in prison.

Dog Eat Dog (Perro come Perro)

It’s set in the dangerous mafia world in Cali. Two corrupt former police officers are hired by a sadistic narcotrafic lord to find his missing money – lost after a police raid – and revenge the death of his nephew. Both men risk their secrets being revealed: one has the money hidden, planning to escape with it; the other was the murderer of the drug lord’s nephew. Little by little, the former police officers are corralled and they must join forces in order to keep their lives. This action and thriller movie was released in 2008 and has participated in festivals such as Sundance.

Paradise Travel (Paraiso Travel)

Based on a bestselling novel by the same name, the film tells the story of Marlon, a middle-class young man from Medellín, who is in-love with Reina. Reina wants to live the ‘American Dream’ and she will do everything to reach it, even if that means entering the United States illegally. The viewers will be able to witness these two love-birds’ journey from Colombia, through Guatemala and Mexico and all the ups and downs they have to experience – including how an illegal immigrant lives in the US. The film was released in 2008 and participated in the Tribeca Film Festival in New York.

Embrace of the Serpent (El abrazo de la serpiente)

The film tells the epic story of the first contact, meeting, approach, betrayal and possible friendship between an Amazonia shaman, last survivor of his tribe, and two scientists, who are exploring the area in search of a sacred plant that could cure them of their ailments. This film is inspired by the first explorers Theodor Koch-Grunberg and Richard Evan Schultes’ journals, written whilst they travelled the Colombian Amazonia. Embrace of the Serpent was shot in black and white and was released in 2015. It was nominated for an Academy Award as Best Foreign Language Film; it won the Cannes Art Cinema Award and in other international festivals such as Hamptons, Munich, Odessa, Pacific Meridian, Rotterdam and Sundance.

Crab Trap (El vuelco del cangrejo)

In a forgotten and almost virgin beach in the Colombian Pacific coast, Daniel, a quiet and – to the locals – odd tourist, witnesses the confrontation between Cerebro (‘Brain’ in English) the leader of the area, who wants it to remain isolated from the world, and ‘El Paisa’, a landowner who wants to build hotels to attract more tourists and make profits. The film displays the conflict between wanting to preserve the nature versus the economic expansion. This movie was released in 2010 and has won the Fipresci of the International Berlin Festival, among others.

The Towrope (La Sirga)

Alice is a victim of the civil war in Colombia: as a result she has no one in her hometown, so she has to leave. She tries to rebuild her life in ‘The Towrope’, a depraved hostel on the shore of a lagoon in the Andes Mountains. The place belongs to Oscar, her strange relative – a bad-tempered and lonely old man. Alice must settle and try to find a better life, letting go of her sad past memories and fears – but a new threat of war resurfaces. This film that was released in 2012, has won the has won the Rencontres Cinémas D´Amérique Latine in Toulouse, France.

Land and Shade (La tierra y la sombre)

Made in 2015, La tierra y la sombre is set in the Valle del Cauca, a region known for its sugar cane plantations. This family drama depicts the metaphors and the pictures of the culture, the inescapability of progress, the oblivion, the fragility of memory, the inevitability of the family breakdown and the loneliness that these cause. This is a very important film in Colombian cinema, hence it’s the only one that has won the Camera D’Or, the and the SACD Award in Cannes.

Satan (Satanás)

Based on a bestseller, the film follows three characters as their lives are ultimately intertwined by a shocking event in Bogota’s history. Satanás depicts the massacre of Pozzetto that happened in 1989, where a gunman went on a killing spree in a restaurant. The movie was released in 2007 and its lead actor, Damián Alcázar, won the Best Actor Award of the Montecarlo Film Festival.

Alias Maria

Based on several testimonies of women who fought in the Colombian’s guerrilla groups, the film tells the story of María, a young teenager who was recruited by one of these. When she discovers she’s pregnant, she has to figure out what she wants to do, especially since it is forbidden for women soldiers to be with child. The movie was released in 2015 and also featured at Cannes.

All Your Dead Ones (Todos tus muertos)

A man discovers a pile of cadavers in his corn field. He tells the local authorities about the issue but because it’s Election Day, they disregard his claims. However, when they realise the magnitude of the situation, they have to decide what to do. Meanwhile, journalists, landowners and NGO’s feel something insidious it’s happening. This film won the Best Photography award in Sundance 2011.

Once you've watched these, why not check out our must-see films that explain Canada, EnglandPortugal and Ireland?


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