How a Film Festival changed a community…
by Gloria Rodríguez (1)
The objective of the project is to analyze how the community of Ciudad Bolívar in Bogotá, Colombia makes itself socially present through the construction of a film festival. The third Ojo al Sancocho Film Festival is organized by Sueños Films Colombia. The project takes its inspiration from the ritual of sancocho, which is a typical dish of Colombian cuisine that combines the most diverse ingredients, is served at special times of the year, and is prepared collectively throughout the community. The Ojo al Sancocho Film Festival pays homage to this ritual of Colombian culture, using its name and being an analogy of sorts with its ingredients, preparation, and final result. The challenge is to develop strategies that allow for the consolidation of the festival at the local level.
Ciudad Bolívar is located in the southern part of Bogotá, the capital of Colombia. Roughly 73% of its land is rural and 27% is urban. The majority of the residents have been forcefully displaced or are victims of the violence that has plagued the country for more than 50 years. This is one of the reasons why Ciudad Bolívar has been one of the most stigmatized places in the country. Currently, however, there are countless social organizations, as well as district and municipal entities, contributing to transforming these negative social imaginaries into opportunities for highlighting the significant social, community, political, and cultural development that has arisen and taken shape in recent years.
One of these experiences is the International Community Film and Video Festival Ojo al Sancocho, which has succeeded again in putting Ciudad Bolívar on the local, national, and international map. This time, Ciudad Bolívar can showcase its images, sounds, oral histories, and realities of coexistence, peace, solidarity, integration, hope, and struggle. Thanks to this third film festival, Ciudad Bolívar is presented as a real and potential artistic and cultural scene, with multiple realities worth highlighting and a series of unique conditions for harvesting an audiovisual culture of social transformation. (Sueños Films Colombia, 2009)
The multicultural character of Ciudad Bolívar and its unique composition of immigrants from all over the country clearly reflect Colombian society. The neighbors in the community are beginning to tell their story: ¿Who are they?, ¿Where did they come from?, ¿Why are they there?. As time and conditions permit, these histories will only grow and multiply. In this way, Ciudad Bolívar is becoming a colorful and ideal setting for the resurgence of Colombian film, which is seen through the eyes of its protagonists, told with their own words, and filmed with their own resources. These are histories where everyday life weighs more than literature and where, surprisingly, scenes of hope are offered to those who watch the films in the festival. It is an opportunity to overcome the stigma of drug trafficking and violence that has marked Colombia abroad.
The Ojo al Sancocho Film Festival project is a local one, born of a system of community initiatives working in unison and constituting an organization named Sueños Films Colombia. The system is structured as an action-reflection of the community dynamic, insofar as the establishment of the lands where the films take place is on the periphery and always under construction, being consolidated by layers as the population grows. The urban dynamic of social innovation applied in this case has caught the attention of educational entities, NGOs, government institutions, collaborative organizations, and others who have provided support with different types of resources. However, it is crucial to optimize the interaction between the actors involved in helping, as well as the integration of educational institutions and other entities that can strengthen the dynamic of the festival, its conformation, and its sustainability.
The project began in 1999 with audiovisual workshops that included photography, sound, stop motion, animation, script, color theory, human rights, and others. The workshops taught not only basic techniques of audiovisual language, but also creative narratives that resulted from the process of reviewing the life of an individual. These processes can be grouped as follows: spoken experiences (spoken or written word), image experiences (in memory, drawings, sketches, photos), object experiences (that store the experience and memories), action experiences (representations), spatial experiences (notion of scenography), and encounters experiences (facing an audience or being part of one). Similarly, there are processes related to place of origin, to daily life, or to any other relevant life event.
The histories told in the workshops were recorded and shown on local channels. Being shown on television generated a series of positive reactions that inspired more people from the community to participate in the workshops to tell their story. In this way, audiovisual collections were created. Due to the production quality, audiovisual content, and growing number of workshop submissions, there was a need to develop a strategy to showcase the results of the audiovisual collections and to obtain much greater coverage. In response to this need, Sueños Films Colombia was created in 2005.
Project Aims and Tentative Vision
The strategy resulted not only in the creation of the lead organization Sueños Films Colombia, but also in the following three projects:
1. EKO Audiovisual School (EKO is for “echo” in Spanish)
2. Ciudad Bolívar Media Center
3. Ojo al Sancocho Film Festival
These are all organized by Sueños Films Colombia. The most widely recognized project, the Ojo al Sancocho Film Festival, calls for “the democratization of audiovisual culture in Colombia.”
EKO Audiovisual School
The EKO Audiovisual School has produced the documentary series entitled “Ciudad Bolívar, Nuestro territorio” (Ciudad Bolívar, Our Land) that is broadcast on national television. Through more than 30 documentaries and more than 20 works of alternative fiction, all produced in Ciudad Bolívar, the goal is to promote the prevention of crime and violent deaths among the youth and to seek recognition at the local, national, and international level for successful initiatives in coexistence, education, culture, and art in Ciudad Bolívar.
There are workshops on acting, coexistence, nonviolent conflict resolution, and both technical and literary production. They are initially based on the construction of histories: fantasy or real, very personal ones about their family, friends, identity, community, country, planet, dreams, or emotions. The project has been replicated in neighborhoods like Lucero Medio and Potosí, and in other areas of Bogotá like Santa Fe, Barrios Unidos, and San Cristóbal.
This initiative is promoted by Ciudad Bolívar’s youth organization, Sueños Films Colombia, support organizations like Colectivo KinoClaje, the Universidad Javeriana (Cultural Studies Master’s program), the War Child Holland NGO, as well as youth leaders and voluntary artists.
Ciudad Bolívar Media Center
This center provides workshops on audiovisual execution, production, and post-production for youth and adults alike. There is also a community movie club, a community video library, and various film forums. The audiovisual productions that are made both at the EKO Audiovisual School and the Media Center are exhibited at the Ojo al Sancocho Film Festival; that is, the EKO school and the Media Center provide a large portion of the “ingredients” for the festival, which takes a year to prepare. It is worth pointing out that the EKO Audiovisual School and the Ciudad Bolívar Media Center are places of direct contact with the community throughout the year during the “preparation” of the Sancocho. The community currently has more than 400 kids and teenagers that have already received instruction at the EKO school and the Media Center. These youngsters can now spread their knowledge at home, in their neighborhood, and at school.
Ojo al Sancocho Film Festival
The festival came about as a strategic way to exhibit the audiovisual work that was developed in the EKO Audiovisual School and the Ciudad Bolívar Media Center by those who had received instruction there and had contributed to the audiovisual collections. It also offered a scene for amateur or professional producers and the opportunity to begin a dialogue about audiovisual work in order to find out what was happening in communities elsewhere in Colombia, like Comuna 13 in Medellín, district Aguablanca in Cali, and the Nelson Mandela neighborhood in Cartagena.
To achieve the proposed objectives, it is necessary to revise the methodologies and concepts that are used to develop strategies, to create maps that contextualize the role of the actors involved, their interactions, productive processes, strengths, and weaknesses. It is important to identify the breadth of categories present in the Ojo al Sancocho Film Festival project. These categories include: the reconstruction of social ties, legitimization, power, local justice, strengthening of differences, and the singularity of subjects. It is also crucial to explore the relationships with educational entities (relationships between tacit and explicit design).
1. Awareness. The importance of awareness and its presence in Ciudad Bolívar is noticeable. Ciudad Bolívar deserves to host the film festival. This will enable its citizens to be empowered and increase their sense of social belonging at a local level.
2. Credibility. This project should position itself at a local level, supported by local government institutions, such as the Mayor’s Office and the Ministry of Culture, who could assist in providing guidelines for the format of the festival.
3. Cooperation. A cooperative process between universities and the community of Ciudad Bolívar is fundamental, since there is immense value in creating a dialogue between academics, professional producers, self-learners, students, and community members. The festival is the result of a collective effort in which many different stakeholders have actively participated.
4. Consolidation. The project is in an ongoing phase of consolidation, whereby the quality of audiovisual work and general knowledge are continually improving.
5. Innovation. The creation of original narratives, along with unique audiovisual proposals, will serve as the main basis of motivation for community members in working towards the achievement of common goals. Creativity in the production of film is often the result of scarce economic resources and/or the lack of technical equipment.
6. Interaction. In order to promote and advertise the film festival at a local level, a space for the interaction of experiences and knowledge throughout Bogotá and Colombia will be provided.
7. Urban tourism. One of the goals of this project is to promote tourism in Ciudad Bolívar as an invaluable tool for economic and social development. During the festival, local residents will offer a cordial and warm welcome to all visitors. This experience will allow visitors to take in the splendid sunrises and sunsets in this part of the city, as well as the beautiful mountain vistas. Experiences and interactions like these are essential to fortify the well-being, development, and feeling of social belonging in the community of Ciudad Bolívar. These are spaces where common objectives can be identified and pursued, where a collective memory and culture can be developed.
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Festival Ojo al Sancocho. (2010, enero 15). Sobre el festival. Retrieved August 13, 2010, from Festival Internacional de cine y Video Alternativo y Comunitario Ojo al Sancocho: http://www.festivalojoalsancocho.org
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Sueños Films Colombia. (2009). Memorias 2o Festival Internacional de Cine y Video Alternativo y Comunitario Ojo al Sancocho. Bogotá, Colombia: Sueños Films Colombia.
Sueños Films Colombia. (2009, octubre 21). Son de Tambora 246 OURMedia/NUESTROSMedios 8- “Comunicación, conflicto y convivencia: Narrativas individuales y colectivas. Retrieved August 12, 2010, from The Comunication Initiative Network: http://www.comminit.com/es/node/304436
All content on this website (c) Gloria Rodríguez 2017