El Renacer del Carare gives life to a diaporama made in the late ’80s by the Association of Rural Workers of Carare (ATCC) in Colombia. How did you discover this document? And could you tell us about the investigation process on it?


I was invited by Carlos Hoyos Bucheli to work in a project concerning the Historical Memory of the Armed Conflict in Carare, Santander. I was part of the artists working with the young generations of the village  La India that formed a collective, in order to reinforce the processes they were working on.


We know that the Centro Nacional de Memoria Histórica was doing some works in the Carare, as part of the commitments all over the process of the actual Colombian peace agreements around 2015, but that was oriented into a legal process to recognize the ATCC as a victim of the armed conflict, they extracted only what the officiality liked. Carlos noticed that the CNMH decided to exclude some archives to tell just one version obliterating the forms of organization from the history of ATCC. Carlos and The Collective made most of their approach to the archive of ATCC and did the findings of the excluded archives that became part of the information they used. They did a project to create museographic devices for the CNMH[1]. Afterward, the plan was to use the excluded archives and appropriate it through artistic processes and get the archive free. We did an exhibition in 2017 and we showed some raw filmed fragments of the script[2]. That script was excluded by the CNMH. For us, it had the potential to explain the constant procedures of the Colombian governments against different forms of autonomy and production. So, the script was not abandoned anymore and I decided to make the film.


You say that the slideshow was made around 1987. However, this document contains facts about the achievements of the ATCC dating back to 1988 (the establishment of the community store) and 1989 (the opening of the agricultural baccalaureate). Could you tell us more about that?


When I say that the diaporama-project was made around 1987, I mean that in 1987 it probably started as a project. We do not know if it was finished or presented, as there was nothing else related to this audiovisual project. We guess they were preparing this presentation years before February 26 of 1990, when occurred the assassination of the three ATCC leaders, Josué Vargas, Saúl Castañeda and Miguel Barajas, and the assassination of Silvia Duzán, a journalist that was making a reportage about the ATCC for BBC Channel 4 in London, presenting the Association as one of the first peace communities in the country.


This crime has not yet been solved and goes unpunished. Many of the ATCC members emigrated or returned to the “law of silence” and there was a wave of supreme violence like now. There are killings of hundreds of social leaders, and the government mysteriously does not bring any protection. Last year filmmaker Mauricio Lezama was killed and that crime still goes unpunished.


We do not have much information about the creators of the script yet. We interviewed some ATCC friends and they were very reserved about it. Some of them wanted to avoid being identified. So I respected their decisions. Probably the project stopped because they were afraid.


The images, filmed in a 16mm that adds a particular texture to them, are manipulated with superimpositions and other distortion effects. Why did you choose this shooting format and what motivated you to intervene in such a way on the material?


Carlos Hoyos Buchelli and the guys of The Collective gave me the script, I decided to film the images in 16mm the first moment I touched it. I started recreating it by processing and filming it amplifying the small images, and combining it. I was working on it trying to extend its ghostly materiality and aspect. The 16mm format gave the film that spirit, but it was not enough, so I decided to process it confronting digitized images of the script and other materials.


Halfway through the film, there is a musical interlude. According to what necessity? How did you choose the song? And what led you to such a radical device consisting only of a black screen and the words of the song?


The song is part of another project the ATCC did with the support of CNMH. They could express through music some things that were not easy to say because of that “law of silence” or reserve. I was always interested in the multiple temporalities of the lyrics. The plan was to connect the song lyrics with the phantasmatic voice of Bruno Mazzoldi, the narrator. Visually I enjoyed a scene from La Desazon Suprema (2003) by Luis Ospina, a film about Fernando Vallejo where there are words over the black screen. That impressed me, so I decided to repeat this device. I am very influenced by militant filmmakers like Santiago Alvarez, for whom the use of words is very important. While finishing a cut with the words on the screen I get to know Travis Wilkerson films and I felt more confident with what I was doing.


At the end of the film, after the credits, we see the page by page photos of the technical script that is the basis on which the film was developed. Why did you make this choice?


I wanted to keep a record of the existence of the script in this format, not as evidence of its existence, but for the future and the audience.


In this technical script, there is a complete explanation of what is an audiovisual program in “sonoviso”. Can you tell us how widespread this practice was at the time? Was it commonly used by ATCC?


The early ATCC members were aware of the power of the media, and of the cultural frame they wanted to create to extend their chances against all the different sides of the conflict. They had recorded some meetings with the armed groups, with the paramilitary and the Army Forces, which were also discarded by the CNMH.


They knew of the importance of leaving a bit of history for generations to come and they wanted to make visible their amazing integral proposal for their territory. But after the assassination, the discussion shifted to the fight for freedom of expression for journalists. We guess that the killing was planned to disengage the cultural capacities of the people.


One of the main themes of the film is the question of spreading a message, of educating and informing, but also the question of transmission from generation to generation, from parents to children. Can you tell us what remains of this ATCC experience today?


The ATCC remains, but as far as we know, after the journalist event, everything has changed and they are asking for reparation. The crime was recognized as a Crime Against Humanity (Crimen de Lesa Humanidad) but “law of silence” is still in force. Today, the actual government has put in charge of the CNMH a person who doesn’t believe that a conflict has happened. This person is a negationist, who prefers to speak about the government’s fight against drug trafficking and terrorism.


Beyond informing, my film brings to light some of the ghosts behind this battle of narration on historical memory. From my point of view, the ATCC in the film is a possibility of organization, it is not the actual ATCC, it is the image of a possibility that is yet to come, at least in our convictions.


Interviewed by Marco Cipollini

[1] Radiar memorias. Diálogos con el carare. Becas de investigación y producción de proyectos museográficos sobre memoria histórica y conflicto armado: memorias de guerra, resistencia y dignidad” – 2016. Centro Nacional de Memoria Histórica (CNMH)

[2] Habitar La Casa. Casa Obeso Mejía – Museo La Tertulia (2017)