Tag Archives: Luis Ospina

Cine Club de Cali

We´re so used to talking about structures that we forget how individuals make a difference.  I was reminded of this whilst watching Luis Ospina´s It All Started At The End/ Todo comenzó por el fin (Columbia, 2015). A group of friends with shared interests get together and share a house. The friends then turn that house into studios, an art gallery, a publishing house and a cinema. This group happened to include, amongst others, Luis Ospina, Andrés Caicedo and Carlos Mayolo. We´re shown how shared cinephilia leads to collaborative cultural production, one that´s left an imprint, proven to be very influential and now become part of Colombia´s cultural history. Cinephilia left a legacy in Columbia, one that exceeded filmmaking.

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I was particularly struck by the programs of the Cine Club de Cali. They don´t seem much different than Film Soc programs from that era (early 70s) in most of the West: Kubrick, Chaplin, Eisenstein, Cukor, Hitchcock, Buñuel, Westerns, Czech Cinema. Jerry Lewis worship was not restricted to Paris but also flowed in Cali. The programs made me wonder when and how Latin American Cinema began to circulate and be discussed in Colombia.

 

 

The film screenings then also led to publications on cinema, as you can see below, and this is also typical of what you´d find in the West; Truffaut, Polanski, the films of Clint Eastwood, whatever of interest was then playing. Ospina himself has declared that more significant for them were B movies like Romero´s The Night of the Living Dead (1968), partly because it was cheap and fun, about zombies and cannibalism, but partly because it was also a significant and serious social critique about America and the Vietnam War.

This coming together of friends also lead to an important intervention, the creation of the Caliwood group of filmmakers, which has proved an inspiration to several generations of Latin American filmmakers now and has also left an indelible imprint on Colombia´s cultural history: the work of writer Andrés Caicedo, now translated into several languages (see images below), the films of Carlos Mayolo, and of course the work of Ospina himself. So the friendships and shared interests of these irreverent, druggy, countercultural dissidents bore fruit and left a legacy, which is not to say that structures are not important. They wouldn´t have been able to do so if they weren´t of a particular class, one with relatives who could afford to lend out empty houses. That said, an important reminder that individuals can make a difference, that collaboration is essential, and that Harold Innes´observation in Empire and Communication that colonised people need to be fully conversant with the culture of Empire as well as their own is amply evident in the conjunction of their programming and their own production,

 

For those of you who speak Spanish, the great Jorge Yglesias tells a similar story of the developments of a cinephile culture in Cuba that can be listed to here:

 

 

José Arroyo

Agarrando Pueblo/ The Vampires of Poverty (Luis Ospina/ Carlos Mayolo, Columbia,1977)

 

Screenshot 2019-11-28 at 08.48.33.pngAgarrando pueblo/ The Vampires of Poverty, directed by Luis Ospina and Carlos Mayolo is  a scathing satire of poverty porn, very funny, quirky, self-referential and multi-faceted. A crew of filmmakers working for German TV are tasked with filming poverty. They chase after poor people on the streets, pay children to take their clothes off and go swimming for money, pin the most vulnerable to their poverty, all the while thinking ahead to the whorehouse they hope to visit later. The film alternates between black and white and colour film to startling effect, showing the differences in information conveyed and experience incited by a simple change of stock, Throughout bystanders interrogate the filmmakers: ´why always focus on the worst. Is this the only aspect of our culture Westerners are interested in? If you´re making money off our suffering,  shouldn´t we be paid? ´At the end some of the real people who were performing the aspects of their lives most desired by Western consumers have a good laugh about it all, but not before one of them wipes his ass with the filmmakers money. Essential viewing for those of you interested in poverty porn and documentary ethics. A prime exemplar of Colombia´s  ´Caliwood´filmmaking group.

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José Arroyo