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Cinema is a medium in the most encompassing way, and through this medium we call on Bolívar’s long-lasting and influential soul for keys to understand the history and future of our region. The land remembers times and events we have no knowledge of, and in the landscape remain the scars of history and the ghosts of today. Through these mediations we translate, transpose, and reinterpret our surroundings, seeking and providing alternate viewpoints in our efforts to understand our world.

Taking a deeper and unconventional look at such an enigmatic figure as Simón Bolívar, BICENTENARIO mediates both the landscape and Bolívar’s spirit in an effort to explore the everlasting effects of the past in a society, its politics, and the land. BICENTENARIO engages with spiritism and mediation not as esoteric folklore, but rather as a cultural practice and a system of knowledge used to engage with the forces that affect the material world. Mediation—both spiritual and political mediation—are approached as procedures to engage with, to understand, and to explore history and contemporary politics. For that reason, the notion of mediation won’t be limited to the practice of clairvoyants, but also to that of politicians and cultural narratives. These mediations all function in the same way, evoking a spirit from the past, and for better or for worse engaging it with the present.

The land remembers times and events we have no knowledge of, and in the landscape remain the scars of history and the ghosts of today.

The issue of time and memory is so poignant in Colombia at the moment that, as I am presenting this film, the current government-appointed official and head of the Center for Historical Memory denies the fact that the country has been in an internal conflict for 50 years. The Center for Historical Memory (Centro de Memoria Histórica) is one of the most important institutions in Colombia dealing with resolving the war that has existed in the country for the last 50 years—and arguably the last 200 years. The new leader denies the critical reality of the conflict, its victims, and the government's participation in it. The topic of historical criticism is therefore extremely important and relevant at this time, not just in Colombia but throughout the world, a time when critical historical departments are being shut down and history selectively told.

Bolívar liberated the continent from the Spanish, but can we liberate ourselves from Bolívar’s toxic political legacy of reliance on violent leaders? Can we exorcise the historical traces from the only political system we know? Against the institutional urge to forget the past, how can remembering the country’s genesis be a form of resistance and action? Our journey over the territory is one of historical mediation and discovery, experiencing the visual backdrop of seemingly agnostic landscapes, against a cacophony of voices invoking Bolívar’s memory in a collective act of spiritual healing. In an era of extreme right-wing governments in the country and the region that seek to break with historical facts, this film speaks to and with the past in order to make it active and participatory.

Pablo Alvarez-Mesa

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