Laura Huertas Millán

Jíibie
Colombia, France 2019

22.02.2020 17:30 Eng. subtitles Kino Arsenal 1
23.02.2020 14:00 Eng. subtitles Werkstattkino@silent green

24 min. Spanish, Ocaina.

In the Muina-Muruí Amazonian community the coca leaf is the highest sanctity. It is considered a person, not an object or product, a non-material sacred and feminine being, giving access to enlightenment. The Muina-Muruí consume the plant in the form of a green powder called “Jíibie” in Uitoto or “mambe” in Spanish to do agriculture or to fish. But its main purpose is for “the ritual of the sweet discourse”: Men gather for hours to discuss political issues. The coca “sweetens” the discourse and allows for the articulatation of complex ideas. The psychotropic substance thus becomes the basis of living together.
Jíibie focuses on the elaboration of the powder, a ritual which constitutes a rhythmic and polyphonic collective activity involving several young men: the plant is burnt, mixed with other plants, reduced to ashes and powder. The gestures of the men recall the spiritual nature of the coca entity and appear in the film as the reminiscences of a resistance that has been going on for centuries. Since the Europeans arrived the uses of coca have been repressed or appropriated. By showing the elaboration, the film intends to show an alternate and singular use of the plant that redefines our relationship with nature.

Laura Huertas Millán, born in 1983 in Bogotá, Columbia, is a French-Colombian filmmaker. In 2017, she completed a PhD between Université PSL and the Sensory Ethnography Lab (Harvard University). Her hybrid films have been awarded and screened at international film festivals and cinemas.

Director’s statement

JÍIBIE is part of a series of works around and about the coca plant.

Before the arrival of the Spanish people, the Andean Indigenous peoples were coca nations, and its leaves had many uses – rituals, medicinal, commemorative practices… These methods have resisted in the shadows for centuries, within indigenous communities, after being repressed and stigmatized by colonial society. JÍIBIE depicts part of the surviving rituals and cosmogonies around the plant, within an Indigenous Colombian community, the Muiná-Muruí, who live in the Amazon forest.

The film is focused on the elaboration of the mambe, a green coca powder also called Jíibie in Uitoto language. In the film, we see Cristobal Gomez Abel, a member of the Muiná-Muruí community, with whom I have been collaborating since 2011. Together, we have already made 4 films. He has been a mentor for me, teaching me how the plant is used and worshipped. JÍIBIE goes one step further in our collaboration: Cristobal decided to introduce me to the production of the mambe within his own family, along with his nephews and cousins. During this process, the original myth of how the mambe was created became instrumental to understand the powerful implications of the gestures and care of the community toward the plant. This myth of kinship and love became the principal structural element of the film.

Why did I need to do a film about the coca plant? Why in a community that is not originally mine? The war on drugs has ripped apart my native country, Colombia. For more than fifty years, repressive policies of eradication and prohibition have proven to be useless. They have aggravated the violence and internal armed conflicts in our country. This continual war causes our nation to constantly lose its sovereignty, with omnipresent foreign military interventions.

Numerous films and television series have been made on the subject, many of them with stereotypical approaches to drugs and those involved. Despite being such a widely represented topic, I still feel the need to reflect on this issue, so crucial in our history and self-determination. The long-term collaboration with Cristobal Gomez Abel, member of the Muiná-Muruí community, has been transformative for me, in the way that I perceive the plant and relate to nature in a wider sense. To end the Colombian war, we need to work along Indigenous communities, include them into the construction of the national politics, we have to listen to them, we have to learn from them. Our common survival depends on that collective intelligence.

As an artist and filmmaker, this film is part of a process grounded on that relationship with Cristobal, and the slow immersion into his community, into which he has been introducing me for now eight years. After this film, we will continue to work together. Thinking about how the technologies and narratives of cinema can be accessible to members of the Muiná-Muruí community is the next step in our collaboration.

Production Laura Huertas Millán. Production company Studio Arturo Lucia (Paris, France). Written and directed by Laura Huertas Millán. Cinematography Mauricio Reyes. Editing Laura Huertas Millán. Music Lea Bertucci. Sound design Jocelyn Robert. With Cristobal Gómez Abel, Pedro Armando Sopín Morales, Harold Jeferson Gomez Florez, Ciber Olmedo Morales.

Films

2011: Journey to a land otherwise known (23 min.). 2012: Aequador (19 min.). 2016: Black Sun (43 min.). 2017: La Libertad (31. min.). 2018: jeny303 (6 min.), The Labyrinth (21 min.). 2019: Jíibie.

Photo: © Laura Huertas Millán