Tuesday, 16 March 2010


Film Screenings and Q&A
Saturday, 13 March, 1.00-9 pm, Birkbeck Cinema, 43 Gordon Square, London WC1H 0PD

L. Ospina and C. Mayolo, Agarrando Pueblo (The Vampires of Poverty), still, 1978
A minor take on history (on marginality and the city)
Colombian filmmaker Luis Ospina has been directing films for over 40 years. His documentary work has focused on the exploration of the genre as a subjective one in which fiction and non-fiction intermingle. Since studying film in UCLA, Ospina started collaborating with Carlos Mayolo. They were part of a new generation of young artists, filmmakers, photographers, and writers working in Cali in the 1970s who were keen to challenge established forms of communication which remained unquestioned, at least locally. The city in general, and Cali in particular, became the subject of enquiry. The manifestation of its changes, its informal and unrestrained growth, its social composition and decomposition were taken as themes which triggered new cinematographic, photographic and literary languages.

By resorting to humour as a strategic language to communicate the contradictions inherent in a society structured according to the heritage of colonial hierarchies (which are forcibly racist and elitist), Mayolo and Ospina were able to reflect on their own situation as outsiders in the scope of the stunted Colombian film industry, but also, in the even larger scope of the society they came from. While Oiga vea (1971) functioned as a critical peripheral view of the Games in Cali, Agarrando pueblo (1978), their last collaboration as directors, created a fictive narrative which was a caustic look to the way "objectivity" was wrongly taken for granted in documentary film-making.

Since the 1980s, Ospina has directed several biographical pieces, portraits of writers, artists or musicians who were somehow marginalised inside their own society for their rebellious genius, their sexuality, or their own choice to remain distant. From Andrés Caicedo: unos pocos buenos amigos (1986) to Un tigre de papel (2007), Ospina plays homage to a certain idea of an alternative history being told through these characters.

The programme of screenings has been organised by Catalina Lozano in collaboration with Luciana Martins (CILAVS, Birkbeck, University of London) and the Colombian Embassy in the UK.

Thanks to: Luis Ospina, Olga Lucía Sorzano and Tania Moreno.

Luis Ospina
Born in Cali, Colombia in 1949, Ospina studied film in the University of South California (1968-69) and in the University of California (1969-72). He was the co-director of the Cine Club de Cali (1972-77) with Andrés Caicedo and co-founded with Caicedo and Ramiro Arbeláez the specialised magazine Ojo al Cine (1974-77). His work has been the subject of filmic retrospectives in New York, Caracas, Santiago, Buenos Aires, Toulouse, Barcelona, Madrid, Cali, Medellín, Barranquilla and Bogotá. His films have been awarded in several international festivals such as Oberhausen, Cádiz, Toulouse, Bilbao, Sitges, Habana, Biarritz, Lima, Caracas, Bogotá and Cartagena. He is the author of Palabras al viento, Mis sobras completas (2007), a compilation of his writings on film and the current Artistic Director of Cali International Film Festival.

1.00-2.30 pm Session 1
Cali as the scenario: Mayolo-Ospina Films
Oiga vea by Carlos Mayolo and Luis Ospina, 1972, 27”, 16 mm transferred to DVD, colour. First collaboration between Carlos Mayolo and Luis Ospina. The independently produced 28 minute documentary, shot in 16mm, dealt with the 1971 Panamerican Games in Cali. The juxtaposition of the official pompous celebration with its film crew and all the people excluded from it served as a backdrop to show a series of contradictions inherent to Colombian society: the social inequalities, the undemocratic access to popular entertainment, the hidden agendas of urban regeneration, the lack of basic infrastructure in marginalised neighbourhoods. All the takes were set outside the official facilities for the games, showing the frustrating experience of most people who had to watch the games from televisions in shopping malls. Instead of formulating an explicit denunciation, the films humorously allows the situations to reveal themselves as grotesque.

Cali: de película by Carlos Mayolo and Luis Ospina, 1973, 14', 35 mm transferred to DVD, colour. This short film presents footage taken during the traditional Feria de Cali, celebrated every December. With no particular narrative, Cali: de película shows both the unglamorous side of the fair as well as the different activities available to different social classes.

Agarrando pueblo (The Vampires of Poverty) by Carlos Mayolo and Luis Ospina, 1978, 28', 16 mm transferred to DVD, black and white and colour. This short-film is the most sheer critique to what Mayolo and Ospina called pornomiseria, “poverty porn”, a term they coined to convey the morbid articulation of European and North American voyeurism of “Third World”'s misery. In The Vampires of Poverty Mayolo acts as the unscrupulous director of El futuro, ¿para quién? (The future, who for?), a supposedly neutral documentary that describes the misery and precarious livelihoods of most Colombian people. Mixing documentary and fiction, the film unveils the complex social mechanisms underlying a great part of the local documentary production.

2.45-4.15 pm Session 2
Andres Caicedo: unos pocos buenos amigos by Luis Ospina, 1986, 86', video, colour. In this film, Ospina takes Angelita y Miguel Angel, an unfinished film by Andrés Caicedo and Carlos Mayolo, as the narrative thread to talk about his friend who had committed suicide a decade before at the age of 25. Caicedo had become a cult figure in Colombia, a genius immortalised by his own death which he announced in a very quoted statement: for him it was shameful to live beyond 25. As a writer, Caicedo had made a portrait of Cali's urban youth culture, of its energy, its impulsiveness, and its somewhat beautifully decadent lack of aspirations. The myth of Andrés Caicedo is scaled down, put in a more domestic dimension by Ospina who lets all of Andrés' closest friends to talk about him. Andrés Caicedo... represented an important shift for Ospina from film to video, and therefore a much more unrestricted freedom to create without the high costs that film entailed. This liberating discovery will have a great impact in Ospina's subsequent films.

4.30-6.30 pm Session 3
Un tigre de papel by Luis Ospina, 2007, 114', video, colour. In Luis Ospina's words A Paper Tiger is a portrait of a generation who wanted to save the world. The excuse is Pedro Manrique Figueroa, pioneer of collage in Colombia. His life is like an adventure novel that is both incomplete and contradictory, constantly linked to the sparkling uncertainties of oral tradition. Taking Manrique Figueroa’s life and work as a narrative threat, this documentary takes the viewer on a journey through a somewhat untold history from the year 1934 up until 1981, when the artist mysteriously disappeared. A Paper Tiger is itself a collage, where art and politics rub shoulders, where truth and lies are placed side by side, where documentary and fiction intermingle.

6.30-7.45 pm Q&A with Luis Ospina, chaired by Rory O’Bryen
7.45-8.45 pm Drinks reception

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