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.

“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.