Can you imagine a place where historically marginalized communities in Colombia teach an international audience what it means to build peace through art? An event where they are not only the protagonists but the hosts, and where their stories are the ones being understood and discussed?
Although the ex-combatant population has received significant international support for projects that allow them to meet immediate economic needs, cultural opportunities are limited or nonexistent. The first International Community Film Festival, organised by Historias En Kilómetros, La Rotativa, EUNIC Colombia and the EU Delegation to Colombia, set the stage to bring the reality of the ex-combatants amid a cultural offer that engages the young population. The festival has been promoting the creation of audiences in these new generations and has a pedagogical offer tailored to them. Moreover, it is more than a festival but also a peace lab and the immaterial reparation of a territory.
There is a need for peace-building through a camera.Maria Fernanda Pinilla Segura, producer of La Rotativa
EUNIC Colombia has had a year-long alliance with Historias en Kilómetros (HEK) and the Colombian Truth Commission (CTC). Together they have trained community filmmakers to become sustainable production companies. These filmmakers were ready to host this festival. Tierra Grata, one of 24 so-called Territorial Training and Reintegration Spaces, hosted this unique gathering, as a community born with the Colombian peace process, where former FARC guerrillas laid down their weapons and transitioned to civilian life. The festival brought together local production companies from the regions most affected by the armed conflict to show the work they have created with the CTC.
It took place in Tierra Grata from 11 to 13 November and presented as a story that of three acts in three days, including an intense and varied programme of film screenings, workshops, panels, all around their core values of peace building:
- Act I - Who We Were: A journey through the process of laying down weapons of the former FARC and their transition to civilian life
- Act II - Who We Are: A day that will reveal how a community is built and how community cinema is produced
- Act III - Who We Will Be: A day to talk about the new generations and the dream of a dignified home.
An international network of community film makers building peace through art
The festival's programming included workshops, panels, an official community short and feature film competition, and the launch of the documentary series “Somos Historias,” which highlights processes of cultural resistance to the armed conflict. The festival featured community films from around the world that give voice to marginalized communities affected by various forms of violence. The jury, made up of filmmakers, signatories of the Peace Agreement and artists, evaluated 265 films from more than 37 countries in the categories “Peace, memory and reconciliation”, “Beyond stigma” and “Cinema-memory for boys and girls”. The official selection brought together 28 short and feature films from around the world. More than half have female directors or mixed co-direction teams.
This festival will serve as an annual meeting for an international network of community filmmakers. Primary audience of the project are the communities affected by the armed conflict in Colombia: ex-combatants, Afro-Colombian men and women, indigenous communities, farmers, LGBTIQ communities, and the urban youth. The local producers come from these communities and have become their cultural representatives.
The most important innovative aspect of the project is creating a horizontal relationship between local Colombian producers and national and international professionals, allowing the Festival to be built on a bilateral basis. In terms of content, the activities were designed in conjunction with the community of Tierra Grata, who will host the festival and present its own stories to international filmmakers. The decentralized location chosen allowed the festival to reach areas where there is a lack of cultural projects due to scarce resources. It reinforced the institutional presence in these territories and made them visible for international social initiatives.
Holding this festival in this space is being able to tell society that the peace process is a success. Being able to show Colombian society and the children who grew up seeing their parents in arms, who are now hosting a community film festival. It is the possibility of starting to build a new history and narrative through culture.Yarledis Olaya, community leader of Tierra Grata
Tierra Grata is the first community of ex-combatants to consolidate itself thanks to its self-management and has become "the first city of peace." In addition, the inhabitants of Tierra Grata and neighboring villages host the guests and provide the food and all other products for all the festival's needs. The festival aims to become a reference for cultural initiatives for peace processes for the guest countries amid their own peace processes.
Whilst preparing the final proposal, the project team's visit to Tierra Grata in October 2022 was essential for developing the methodology for the first edition of the festival, as the different actors involved in the project met and worked face-to-face. Together, they contributed to the construction of the proposal and ensured the different actors involved were at the same starting point regarding how they viewed, understood, and planned to achieve this project.
The main result of the visit was that it allowed the international community to get to know the Tierra Grata territory, its history, and its organizational processes. All actors involved developed and defined the main objectives and activities that will take place during the festival, guaranteeing a sustainable impact, and with that, the central role each of the partners will play based on a horizontal dialogue.