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108 min. Spanish.

The dominant subject of the films of Marta Rodríguez and Jorge Silva is the centuries-long oppression of farmers and indigenous peoples in Colombia, and their equally long resistance. While the early films analysed these conditions using a vocabulary informed by Marxism, indigenous cosmogony became more and more influential in their later work. The result of this clarification process – unthinkable without the critical participation of the indigenous farmers of Coconuco – is Nuestra voz de tierra, memoria y futuro, whose images no longer function as argumentative proof for eyewitness accounts, but rather form a tightly woven system of signs: furrows in the landscape, the backs of animals, the gestures of monuments, the myths and masks of the people and the breath that brings musical instruments to life. “Our cinema must also be beautiful, as beautiful as possible,” noted Jorge Silva of Nuestra voz de tierra when it first screened at the Forum in 1982. This digital restoration honours an important work of Latin American political cinema, one that doesn’t posit indigenous culture in romantic contrast to modernity, but rather recognizes in it an aesthetic of resistance. (Tobias Hering)

Marta Rodríguez was born in Bogotá, Colombia in 1933. She studied sociology in Barcelona and at the Universidad Nacional de Colombia in Bogotá, where her professors included the Colombian socialist and Roman Catholic priest Camilo Torres. In 1961, she moved to Paris to study anthropology, ethnology and film. There, she got to know the French documentary filmmaker Jean Rouch. In 1965, she returned to Bogotá and continued her anthropology studies. She also founded the student film club Ocho y Medio and met her eventual husband, the photographer and cameraman Jorge Silva. Together, they worked on Chircales (1971), their first of many joint film projects. Rodríguez still works as a documentary filmmaker. She completed her latest film, La Sinfónica de los Andes, together with her son Lucas Silva.

Jorge Silva was born in Girardot, Colombia in 1941 and grew up in Bogotá. He studied literature and visual arts, and worked as a photographer and journalist. In the early 1960s, he became involved in the student film club movement and made his first film, Días de Papel. He and Marta Rodríguez met in 1965 and later married, and together they made their first joint film, Chircales (1971). In addition to their close collaboration in the following decades, he also worked as a DP on other projects. Jorge Silva died in 1987.

Conversation with Marta Rodríguez and Jorge Silva

Question: NUESTRA VOZ DE TIERRA, MEMORIA Y FUTURO is reported to have emerged as a completely new concept from a project that was originally planned as a trilogy about the situation of Colombian farmers. You then decided to treat the Indigenas as a separate subject.

Marta Rodríguez: When we showed the film CAMPESINOS (English: farmers) to our indigenous comrades from the CRIC (Consejo Regional Indígena del Cauca, founded in 1971 to represent the interests of the Indigenas of the Cauca region – Ed.) their response was sceptical. They didn’t recognise themselves in it. The film also contained scenes that confused them, for example those in which a farmer gives a speech on the Plaza de Bolívar and pictures of the Indigenas are shown. This gives the impression that they have no voice of their own and so have to have a farmer speak for them. In addition, at that moment there was a crisis within the ANUC (Asociación Nacional de Usuarios Campesinos, Colombia’s national farmers’ association – Ed.), during which the CRIC seceded from the association.

Is it true that your relationship with the Indigenas led you to completely rethink your visual concept for the film?

Marta Rodríguez: The Indigenas have a collective self; they take all their decisions collectively. When they saw scenes in which an Indigena spoke uninterruptedly, they simply said, ‘This Indio is crazy.’ Nor did they like it that the leaders played such an important role in the film. Trino Morales said to me, ‘If you concentrate on the leaders to this extent, what will ultimately come out is a tear-jerking romance.’ Gregorio Palechor asked about CAMPESINOS, ‘Why do you lump Indigenas and farmers together? That’s like seeing no difference between mules and horses.’ The Indigenas made it clear to us that our film’s narrative viewpoint did not reflect their view of reality. To mention another example: we showed them the close-up of an Indigena whose face was covered with sweat, but you couldn’t see his tool or the work he was performing. They asked us, ‘What’s with him? What is that supposed to mean?’ We realised that they had a different feeling for time and space – a rhythm one had to know. That’s why we decided to live together with them for a while, to overcome our prejudices.

How long did you live with the Coconucos?

Jorge Silva: Our work on location took a year. Altogether, we needed four years to complete the project.

What was the origin of the symbolic figure of the landowner and the diabolical country police officer?

Jorge Silva: The figure comes from a story that Julián Avirama told to us and that we later called the ‘myth of Huecada’. This story is about two men who are looking for their cows, which have gone missing. The men get lost and arrive at a slope near a volcano. Here, where no one would suspect anyone to live, they suddenly come upon a cattle ranch. An overseer appears and claims to be the devil. Later, the devil also appears in the guise of a country police officer and of the landowner. Each time, he is sitting on a horse, spurred like an American conquistador. To incorporate this tale in the film, we had to stage it dramatically. We reconstructed the myth of Huecada together with the narrator himself and with one of his friends. The two of them helped us find suitable shooting locations, find the cattle, and all the other things we needed to shoot the scene in which the two of them climb the slope in the fog in search of their livestock.

In a certain way, the fog is a protagonist of its own in the film.

Jorge Silva: The landscape in this region creates an atmosphere you can’t escape. The fog is a very important component, because the people live on remote farmsteads and are surrounded by stories about ghosts that roam about at night. The special mythology of this region is influenced by fog and the remoteness of the farmsteads where the people live.

You mentioned earlier that the dramatic staging of NUESTRA VOZ DE TIERRA, MEMORIA Y FUTURO was an inevitable result of dealing with this story.

Jorge Silva: Essentially, this film is a documentary reconstruction of the content of several texts and stories. The result is, I think, a real stroke of luck. This symbolic figure is very important for the film, because it originates in a reality in which myth, ideology, politics, the real world and fantasy, magical thinking, and current political processes interact and coexist. This duality, this dialectic became the basis of the specific kind of narration we developed for the film, in which we combined the characteristically naturalistic form of documentary film with other forms of perceiving reality.

You recently said in a reportage that almost all the indigenous activists who appear in the film have been murdered.

Marta Rodríguez: Yes. Justiniano Lame was killed on February 4, 1977. A police officer killed him during an occupation of land. He shot him and left him to bleed to death.

Jorge Silva: It is a remarkable coincidence that Justiniano Lame died on the country estate San Ignacio, forty years after Manuel Quintín Lame was imprisoned in the bell tower of the church on the same farm.

Marta Rodríguez: Abelino Ul died on November 4, 1978. He was killed by the párajos (ed. note: a Colombian paramilitary group) as he returned from the market with his wife. He was an important activist in the region of San Francisco. Benjamín Dindicué, one of the most important activists in the Cauca region, was killed in 1979.

Didn’t your films cause you problems with the Colombian authorities or the members of the extreme right?

Jorge Silva: In Europe, a Colombian diplomat protested against NUESTRA VOZ DE TIERRA, MEMORIA Y FUTURO. We were threatened with legal action in reaction to the film CHIRCALES. A detective was sent on our trail and followed us for a long time. I was investigated once because of some of the photographs I had taken in Planas. The army claimed they were forgeries, saying they had never tortured anyone.

Marta, what is the topic of your next film, EL VALOR DE LA PALABRA?

Marta Rodríguez: In the script for my new film, I processed all the experiences from the time we spent in the countryside shooting CAMPESINOS and NUESTRA VOZ DE TIERRA, MEMORIA Y FUTURO. Back then, I began observing the women and noticed that as soon as the struggle for land rights began, they broke out of the constraints of their everyday life – household, children, work – and took an active part in the struggle. One event especially impressed me: several young indigenous women had come to Cali to work as maids. When they heard about the land occupations on the radio, they quit their jobs and returned to take part in their compatriots’ struggle. I got to know an extraordinary woman, Gertrudis Lame, the widow of Justiniano Lame. In NUESTRA VOZ DE TIERRA, MEMORIA Y FUTURO, she says, ‘I think there are some things you can’t forget even when you are dying.’ As a widow, she continued the struggle alone. There are many other women like her, who are the widows of murdered activists and continue to struggle, passing this willingness to struggle on to their children. I am interested in another myth, one about creation that I learned in the region of the Sierra Nevada de Santa Marta. It’s a beautiful myth about the origin of the Earth and the struggle for its survival. The film begins with this myth before turning to today’s struggle for the survival of the Earth.

(Cinemateca, Cuadernos de Cine Columbiano, No. 7, October 1982, Bogotá)

Production Marta Rodríguez, Jorge Silva with support of the Cuban Film Institute, Wim Koole. Directed by Marta Rodríguez, Jorge Silva with the support of the indigenous community of Coconuco/Cauca, indigenous people from Coconuco, Mexico, Peru and Bolivia. Screenplay Marta Rodríguez, Jorge Silva. Editing Marta Rodríguez, Jorge Silva, Caita Villalón. Music Jorge López, Benjamin Yépez. Sound design Lucy Martínez, Santiago García, Juan Márquez. Sound Ignacio Jiménez, Eduardo Burgos, Nora Drufovka. Production design Marta Rodríguez, Jorge Silva. Costumes Pedro Alcántara. Make-up Ricardo Duque. Digital restoration Arsenal - Institut für Film und Videokunst. With Fernando Velez, Eulogio Gurrute, Julián Avirama.

World sales Fundación Cine Documental / Investigación Social
Premiere February 16, 1982, Forum


Marta Rodríguez: 1971: Chircales / The Brickmakers / Ziegelarbeiter (42 min., co-directed by Jorge Silva), Planas: Testimonios de un etnocidio / Plans: Testimony About Ethnocide (37 min., co-directed by Jorge Silva). 1975: Campesinos / Peasants (51 min., co-directed by Jorge Silva). 1980: La Voz de los Sobrevivientes (16 min., co-directed by Jorge Silva). 1981: Nuestra voz de tierra, memoria y futuro / Our Voice of Earth, Memory and Future. 1987: Nacer de Nuevo / To Be Born Again (30 min.). 1989: Amor, Mujeres y Flores / Love, Women and Flowers (52 min., co-directed by Jorge Silva). 1993: Memoria Viva (30 min., co-directed by lván Sanjines). 1998: Amapola: La Flor Maldita (32 min., co-directed by Lucas Silva), Los Hijos del Trueno (56 min., co-directed by Lucas Silva). 2001: La Hoja sagrada (53 min.), Nunca más (56 min., co-directed by Fernando Restrepo). 2004: Una Casa sola se vence (48 min., co-directed by Fernando Restrepo). 2006: Soraya, Amor no es olvido (52 min., co-directed by Fernando Restrepo). 2010: Testigos de un etnocidio: memorias de Resistencia (57 min.). 2012: No hay dolor ajeno (23 min.). 2015: La Toma del Milenio (52 min.). 2018: La Sinfónica de los Andes (co-directed by Lucas Silva).

Jorge Silva: 1963: Días de Papel. 1971: Chircales / The Brickmakers / Ziegelarbeiter (42 min., co-directed by Marta Rodríguez), Planas: Testimonios de un etnocidio / Plans: Testimony About Ethnocide (37 min., co-directed by Marta Rodríguez). 1975: Campesinos / Peasants (51 min., co-directed by Marta Rodríguez). 1980: La Voz de los Sobrevivientes (16 min., co-directed by Marta Rodríguez). 1981: Nuestra Voz de Tierra, Memoria y Futuro / Our Voice of Land, Memory, and Future (90 min., co-directed by Marta Rodríguez, Forum 1982). 1989: Amor, Mujeres y Flores / Love, Women and Flowers (52 min., co-directed by Marta Rodríguez).

Photo: © Fundación Cine Documental/ Investigación Social

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