Magazine article Screen International

Colombia Pictures

Magazine article Screen International

Colombia Pictures

Article excerpt

The president of Colombia gave a rousing rallying cry for local cinema at the opening of the Cartagena Film Festival late last month, showing one country that is taking its industry seriously.

In an era where support for film - and the arts in general - are increasingly the victim of public funding cuts, it was refreshing to see the president of Colombia make such a firm commitment to his local industry at the opening of the Cartagena Film Festival late last month.

President Juan Manuel Santos was about 45 minutes late to the opening but that didn't stop him from giving an eloquent statement of intent to local film-makers.

"We want more and better Ibero-American films, more and better Colombian films, in which our people can express and reveal new facets of themselves to the entire world."

He went on to say that his agenda is to make an aggressive play for foreign productions to shoot in Colombia, "to create conditions so that more and more national and foreign producers choose our country as the best place to make their films.""We have the human talent and the will to make film-making a new source of prosperity."

For a country like Colombia with a burgeoning industry, film may serve another important purpose - to inform the world that Colombia whose name has for decades been associated with the drug trade, social and political unrest and kidnapping has changed and is now a culturally rich, safe and relatively stable society. Film, as Santos realises, has the power to reflect society and he said he longed for a time when the films were no longer about druglords or crime, when "there are no more Rosario Tijeras or Our Ladies Of The Assassins."

"From the time I acted as Minister Of Foreign Trade in the early 1990s," he said, "I was very aware of the need to promote national films as a way of introducing others to our country and venturing into an important international market."

Surrounded by his phalanx of bodyguards and aides, Santos stayed for the opening night screening of local film The Colours Of The Mountain directed by Carlos Cesar Arbelaez, although for those of us in the audience, it was ironic and a little discomfiting that there were more men with guns in the auditorium than there were on the screen. …

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