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Colombian cinema isn't exactly steeped in history like Brazilian, nor famous for its quality like Argentinian, nor popular with hipsters like Mexican. This undoubtedly is due to financing as well as the fact that when people go to watch a film about Colombia, they expect guns, violence, gangsters and drugs.
Still, that doesn't mean there aren't some great films that have come out of the country, even if they're not always easy to find in your local cinema in Bogotá. Sure, many of these do involve the above elements but to an extent it's understandable; Colombia may be changing but its history is undoubtedly not laden with Hollywood-friendly stories and characters. What generally differentiates the good, the bad and the ugly is in how these elements are depicted, and how the effects upon the country itself are shown.
Here are my picks of some of the best of Colombian cinema, before coming to town be sure to try and watch at least a few to get an understanding of the country, even if only a small introduction. For those of us that already live here, it's a great way to learn a little more, find out about a new region or just remind yourself about some of Colombia's sadder or more inspiring stories.
La virgen de los sicarios (Our Lady of the Assassins)
Adapted from the novel of the same title by Fernando Vallejo, Our Lady of the Assassins is a bleak story of hopeless love, murder and criminality. A gay Colombian author in his fifties returns to Medellín after a long absence to find the city is mired in violence and completely different to how he remembered it. While the film may not be a fair representation of Medellín today, it still captures the fear and confusion of a certain page in the city's history.
La Estrategia del Caracol
A slow-moving but charming piece of cinema inspired by a true story that appeared in the daily paper, The Strategy of the Snail will appeal to expats already familiar with the country's rather unique blend of overcomplicated beauracracy, and the ease with which you can avoid it unless it suits someone. It's humourous, true to life and a great rumination on Colombian society.
Los Colores de la Montaña
An assured, slow-paced film that depicts how Colombia's warring factions affect the lives of those living in the countryside. By focusing mainly on the lives of a group of children, the film shows that those most deeply affected are often without real political convictions; those that merely want to live their lives in comfort.
The Two Escobars
Critically acclaimed, The Two Escobars focuses on the lives of two of Colombia's most infamous celebrities: Andrés Escobar and Pablo Escobar. Unrelated by birth, their stories nonetheless intertwine through a love of football (Andrés represented the country at the World Cup in 1994) and, unfortunately, some rather more nefarious ways. The film follows the two men's stories up until the tragic end.
Low-key but far reaching, The Towrope ruminates upon the effect of violent conflict in impoverished rural communities. Perhaps not one for mainstream audiences, it shows the difficulty of life for some in Colombia with an unerring vagueness, where the violence is barely shown, barely contextualised but always somehow present. Difficult, challenging but, if you can make it to the end, hugely rewarding.
Did we miss some good Colombian films? Comment below and share with us!