Los Colores de la Montana

Manuel and his friends read guerrilla graffiti brazenly scrawled on the wall of their tranquil rural schoolhouse.

A personal favorite of mine, this film is not a documentary but rather a story and a mild one at that about how drug related violence affects the lives of innocent bystanders in some places. Set in the rolling foothills of the Andes in Colombia, the film depicts a young boy and his journey in realizing that the world around him is changing. We watch as his community dwindles away for fear of the approaching danger. In the end it takes the abduction and perhaps suggested murder of his father for the family to flee the area.

I find the film very powerful every time I watch it because it very accurately portrays the humble honest of the farmer, and also paints the main character not as a victim, but a stubborn, free spirited child who, like any child, will not easily be discouraged from mischief or the rocky misgivings of growing up. The movie wonderfully reveals an example not only of the consequences of the violence that is being prolonged by the drug trade, but also gives us a taste of a life we will never know and a culture we probably will never get to encounter.

-Anna O.

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Plan Colombia

Crops destroyed by the chemical complex we spray on them to “fight drug production” (…the drug production that is RISING.)

Directed by:

Gerard Ungerman

Audrey Brohy

Netflix summary:

Ed Asner narrates this documentary about U.S. involvement in Colombia’s drug trafficking and civil unrest. The film examines the impact of chemical spraying and military funding and reveals alternate U.S. interests. Features interviews with Noam Chomsky, the late Senator Paul Wellstone, Colombian Presidential candidate Ingrid Betancourt, Congressmen John Conyers and Jim McGovern, U.S. State Department officials, guerilla leaders and others.

So, here we are again with coca leaves.

Only this time the US is not only instigating violence with the country, but also endangering innocent people in the most long-range suffering possible. Our government is fumigating ‘coca’ crops with chemicals that are also reaching other crops like corn and bananas. Not only is this destroying the economic prosperity of small farmers, but causes skin problems, birth defects,  fertility issues, tumors, and organ dysfunction. It also reaches the waters that compose the Amazon basin, infecting not only Colombia, but Ecuador, Peru and some parts of Brazil as well.

Just as in Bolivia, the violence this effort has caused in needless and victimizes thousands of innocent people. The US outsources their efforts to Colombian military and paramilitary forces; in areas where these forces clash with the FARC, the result is sometimes literally explosive.

Due to this unrest, entire communities are displaced, making Colombia come in third in the list of countries with internal refugees. Many flee the country, flooding Ecuador and Venezuela with refugees which create an entire new social issue in those countries- some of which included racism against Colombians and the small-scale spread of violence across borders.

In my opinion, the US is doing it wrong. Not only are their operations causing chaos and death, but this fumigation method is the least cost effective, wasting our tax payers money- your money. The military involvement is sketchy at best-  as funds are misused and corruption tears the system set up to keep peace.

Go here for more on fumigation: http://www.beyondpesticides.org/photostories/week_19/week_19.php

-Anna O.

Cocalero

In this film we again find the blood and heartbreak laden story of the indigenous Bolivian people who are suffering the demonization of their beloved coca plants.

This time we follow the campaign 2002 campaign of Evo Morales, an “unlikely candidate” for the former presidency of Bolivia. This man of the Aymara (indian) people became the national leader after having been president of the Chapare coca growers union. In the film we watch as he and his supporters educate the their people about governmental processes and the encourage them in their ways of life. We also see powerful footage of the violence that has sprung from the social issues surrounding the cultivation of coca leaves.

We see also how the Bolivian people view our country; after all, our military itself has been active in this violence. The crowd chants “death to the yankees!” The people desire to maintain their right to live as they wish, without other countries interfering. This film portrays a very important chapter in the opposing “side” to the war against “drugs”. It challenges the way we see our involvement and our mindset towards what we are fighting against.

Now serving his second term, Bolivian president Evo Morales speaks during his campaign. His obvious display of a wreath of coca leaves is an explicit expression of his efforts to fight for the rights of his people and to help the Bolivian people to rise up.

Here is an article about Morales and coca controversy from NYDaily News online:

http://www.nydailynews.com/opinion/condemned-coca-leaf-article-1.1238569

-Anna O.

“Coca Lives”

In the Bolivian film Coca Lives we encounter a very different point of view than that of the United States on the production of drugs. We are presented with the source of the drug cocaine, which is the coca leaf. Throughout this documentary we find  the stories of many people who are among hundreds of thousands who have suffered the demonization of this culturally integral plant.

Way before the Spanish or any other ‘developed’ culture arrived on the continent, the peoples living in south america had been using coca leaves for a plethora of purposes. For centuries they were consumed to fight hunger, fatigue, and to increase the senses in the practices of hunting. It is used to keep arthritis and many other ailments at bay. In other words, in a culture where medicine is traditional  and primitive, the use of every available resource is absolutely necessary.

This issue is not unique to the indigenous of Bolivia. It is a consistently growing problem in the Andean community. The plant was never used to achieve a high, but when gringos and Europeans came in and figured out how to do it, they were willing to pay extraordinary prices for the leaves therefore creating a new opportunity for farmers. The plant is easy to raise in climates that otherwise would not produce sell-able crops. As these markets grew and became corrupt with violence, an association was made between the negativity and the plant.

Now the government is sending military personnel into areas where coca is being raised and trying to stop not only the production but the traditional use of this plant that is so fundamental to the lifestyle that these marginalized indigenous communities maintain. Without a stable system, hundreds are displaced from their homes or watch their dwellings be destroyed. People are shot needlessly. Thousands of innocent men detained with little hope of being returned to the lives that were stolen from them.

-Anna O.