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Rebuilding the mirror. Seeing Colombia through cinema

María Teresa Pérez
Profesora del Departamento de Historia, Universidad del Cauca

Reviewed book: Colombian Cinema: Aesthetics, modernity and culture, by Guillermo Pérez La Rotta professor at the School of Humanities and Social Unicauca,


It's really gratifying to be part of those who are here today to accompany, after delivery and initial care, the public presentation of not a baby but the book Colombian Film: Aesthetics, modernity and culture by my dear colleague Guillermo Pérez La Rotta and have, also the opportunity of expressing my first impressions about this work, which I feel very close to me due to my interests for the memories and stories of history.


Those, who have been close to the work of Guillermo, know the place and significance of this book in his entire career as a tireless student of film aesthetics as an expression of culture. The author presents, this time, a mature and comprehensive work that is intended to start a balance or accountability, about a disturbing and long journey through the Colombian cinematic narrative, in which, besides the philosopher, we see the painstaking craftsman who discovers and reveals, in the multiple signs of language cinema (scenarios, environments, photographs, sounds, characters, etc.) hints and clues, our social worlds and their temporalities not always vividly expressed, in the letter and numerical summaries, some of them very serious and consistent, with which the social knowledge has realized the complex processes of coexistence in which our country is.

A sample of 38 cinematographic productions from different times and genres (emblematic samples of silent movie, talking pictures in their categories of short films, feature films, documentaries, on central themes that marked significantly the life of the country), are the body of analysis that Guillermo chooses to build himself a story, this time, a written text about almost four hundred pages (in which masterfully combines dramas and their interpretations). The author reports the partial nature of the sample, the choice and grouping besides the narrative power of some films and characterization of characters, also reflects the themes that structure the analysis and exposition of the text.

It is not, in this study to account for inventory work (although equally necessary, there are already some scans) about the precarious and unstable itinerary of cinema in the country. Without ignoring it is also not the central purpose, go to the social sphere of the film industry and the formation of public-called national cinema. Although through the aesthetic equation, culture and modernity, challenges significantly the way the language of cinema has created and influenced the representations that give meaning and direction to different worlds, viewed more recurrently, from the power of enunciation modern order officials and modernization business.

This book contains a relevant economy statement about the interpretive frameworks, and proposes in a clear way its theoretical and conceptual guidelines that form the exam of the cinematographic production in Colombia. In the body of the text, when considered appropriate, it refers to the remarkable corpus of scholarship, holding in its text. We identified in this the healthy horizons of a philosophy and worlds with its uniqueness and importance of ideas and great stories.

From this perspective, it becomes understandable the approach called hermeneutic phenomenology, which in the words of the author "teaches us how to feel and think comprehensively with the text" or presumably with the subject matter in question, in this case the series film. Such reflective exercise, emphasizes the author, runs halfway between its own symbolic figures of social reality and communication practices and actions. In this sense, the film interpretation model can be seen as a dialogic claim, between the interpreters with the other or others involved, which may suggest or motivate action or political practice (p.12).

Under these epistemological premises and with the assistance of the semiotics of image and film language, William announces his working method: the intrinsic analysis of the film text, guided by ideas such recognition, intersubjectivity and social imaginary. But definitions of these ideas, the author chooses to address them and if you like, process in light of the problems addressed. We find greater familiarity with the concept of social imaginary, in history this concept refers to a network of mental images or representations ideologies that promote religious or political beliefs. But they have also been seen as relative and transient imaginary constructions to understand the reality of producing and communicating certain yet affected by social interactions senses, and intersubjectivities. Such buildings can not be seen as mere reflections of collective myths and beliefs. Viewed this way, the concept of social imaginary is one of the strongest guidance with which the author penetrates incisively in the textures of the films and their multiple scenarios and dramas, difficult to understand from the structural parameters that social know more officially, still naming and building social reality.

The sample films were fractionated and groups such exercise, as noted by the author, is due in some cases to very obvious criteria such as narratives about the conflict and the phenomenon of drug trafficking, others respond more meaningful connections tested by the author to propose such a trip through the twentieth century, the closer on this trip to the most important historical representations you will. The starting point of this trip, is in what is named as religious imagery, with which it hopes to unveil the deep-seated Catholic morality in the family weight, the exercise of power and politics in Colombian society but also the appropriations and confrontations that make some characters in Under the Antiochian sky, Maria Cano and Condors do not bury every day. A second time, explored through films like fragments, Laura Confession, Canaguaro and The River Tombs, called the political culture assumed as a significant dimension in the context of social relations and power: Caudillismo, gamonalismo , the subject and the popular consciousness and emotional confrontations in the intimate and familiar spaces can generate phenomena such as bogotazo, are some of the tracks that summarize the filmic narratives midcentury.


In axes called provincial worlds and literature in film, author and looming tensions with the chronological order set out in the first two. With the name of provincial worlds that could also point to as plural worlds of the nation or perhaps the multicultural country, the author identifies the films on the peoples and ancestral cultures, such as Imaginary about Catholic moral and indigenous people fables and myths about gender and women in the marriage of an accordion. In this, as in the stories based on the literature, we find the weight of patriarchal values, machismo and virility based on codes of honor, very visible in the accounts of García Márquez: Time to die and chronic of a death foretold. The author also notes the erotic sense Araucaima's mansion and magical Miracle in Rome, the latter can also be read as a romantic reaffirmation of Christian imaginary.

Subsequently, the analysis focuses on the narratives about the crucial events of the twentieth century, as the armed conflict and drug trafficking in the first few lines of continuity with conflicting processes outlined in the accounts referred to in the first part is observed. Repairs the author the lack of stories that allow outline in a more systematic way, continuities, from the point of view of narrative cinema, can be identified in the troubled area of ​​the country. As the axis on drug trafficking highlighted in the stories, the characters role in revealing the story lines about the conflict in Colombian society and the critical role they can play the stories to understand the reality in part. Observed particularly characterize scenes and characters who realize subjects involved different conditions.

Last axes focus their attention on the narratives that refer to the development of the country, especially in the second half of the twentieth century and some of their implications in shaping social processes, actors, tensions and imbalances that keep some connections with phenomena drug trafficking armed groups and some expressions of religious imagery, particularly devotion to the Virgin.

A calve element in these axes has to do with the evolution of national cinema runs parallel to the tensions in the process of urbanization. A rural country that moves progressively, and these contexts and circumstances conducive scans that provide diverse and creative stories of characters and scenes of urban life style. The last chapter examines the stories focused on the genre of humor, to the same effect are identified narrative grotesque, ironic and utopian against the consumer market, political culture and the plight of stocks for a large number of townspeople .

The thorough and careful of each fragment of each scene offers a clue, a sign of that search in the voices, the faces, gestures, rhythms, dialogue and multiple environments work does not conflict with the axes and guiding idea of ​​this study. This position suggests a strengthening and affirmation of current philosophy, which are, in cinema and its claim to synthesis of the arts, a way of apprehending and understanding worlds, in which Guillermo as an interpreter also seems to confront before imaginary they have marking its status as male subject and citizen, in particular, the imperative to death for defending the honor and recognition codes.

Ends this book with a more global and comprehensive around the place of film notes, not only as a witness, but as a significant vehicle of culture and the formation of imaginary country. The author tends to a national cinematography that, notwithstanding the universal conventions, look for codes and languages ​​to explore our vicinity, repeatedly confronted with the global phenomena of uniformity imposed by the great economic empires; can not ignore however, regional and local affirmative process also shows film as a cultural agent, in different regions of the planet.

In Colombia, the author finally proposes a new grouping of films, in this case, "those are examples of national narrative aesthetic that were constructed by reference to the world itself that tell developers to propose creative stories on aesthetic ideas. These stories are part of a way of narrating, some possible meanings of Colombia in its history and social drama, found these keys in films like Under the Antiochian sky, Confessions Laura, Angel underground, Fragments, Miracle in Rome, the strategy of the snail, The Wind Journeys, Our voice memory, land and future, among others.

He said finally that in the last two decades of the twentieth century, under state policies germ progressively achieved a production that proposes various narrative elaborations on our society and culture, such productions have been the main subject of this work, which is proposed that cinema is becoming an imaginary universe of identity affirmation and Colombian social consciousness.

If the film can be seen as a device identity and social consciousness, interested ask for their multidisciplinary nature of their studies and specifically for its dialogue with the social sciences, history for instance, along with judicious timelines, would be at risk of failure and mistakes, a socio-economic approach, aesthetic, (ie forms, representations and languages ​​greater empathy with the public) and technology. Likewise, we should think of the place of cinema in the social sciences, their approaches are still very timid, most texts that address the film as a historical source simply illustrate knowledge previously acquired, even if it is mentalities and imagination. Ranciére underlines Moreover, consider the film as revealing a society dissolves as an object of study, reduced to mere sociological enlightenment and aesthetics of a cultural discourse produced by a given society.

Approach the film from its aesthetic dimensions, from its own language and the strength of its narrative connected with the world that is intended to have and express, is also a challenge Guillermo proposes, and that leads us to question in these times of relativities , the place of cinematic narrative in still prevailing logic of knowledge and social representations.

I finally share the idea of ​​a historian who is gone, he saw the past as the representation of the difference, the staging of another, where you will also accommodates to come, we can watch and perhaps represent, given the neighborhoods of memory and imagination. It is possible then that since the images of film, both atisbemos mirror fragments of memory as intuitions and dreams of what is not, what is not, but it can be, what may come ...

The book is a reference not only for film scholars but for those from multiple fields and disciplines try to approach the problem of representation and the language of the image.

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