The Colours of the Mountain depicts armed conflict in Colombia through childrens' eyes
Colombian director and screenwriter Carlos César Arbeláez's opera prima, The Colours of the Mountain (Los colores de la montaña), portrays children’s dreams juxtaposed against the brutal conflict between the guerrilla and the military.
This conflict has afflicted Colombians for decades and has caused the internal displacement of over five million people, according to the Consultancy on Human Rights and Displacement (CODHES, in Spanish).
The Colours of the Mountain shows the violence through children's eyes, who want to crystallize their dreams yet watch their hopes disintegrate in this violent environment.
The film has garnered various international accolades, including Best New Director at the San Sebastian Film Festival 2010 and now is screening in Vancouver at the Reel to Real Film Festival for Youth, which runs from April 13 until April 20.
Nine-year old Manuel (Hernán Mauricio Ocampo) lives with his parents Ernesto (Hernán Méndez) and Miriam (Carmen Torres) in La Pradera a district in the remote mountains of Antioquía, Colombia.
The boy is obsessed with fútbol and together with his friends Julián (Nolberto Sánchez), the albino boy Poca Luz (Genaro Aristizábal) and their classmates organize games, playing with his old ball.
Manuel, who wants to become a goalkeeper, gets a special present from his parents: a new football and a pair of gloves. But when he goes onto playing with his new, precious ball with his buddies, it falls on a mine field.
Even though the adults warn them not to attempt retrieving the ball, the boys go onto hanging from a rope tied up in a tree. It’s a humorous scene, but punctured by suspense and anxiety. The film slowly begins showing a more sinister side, as the danger comes closer to the village.
Meanwhile, the adults avoid at all costs to take any side in the conflict. Manuel as well as his friends, understand the danger is near, but focuses on drawing and playing soccer, trying to carry on with a normal life.
A new teacher, Carmen (Natalia Cuéllar) is appointed to his school, and she proposes to paint a school wall over the guerrilla’s graffiti on “Guerrilleros put on camouflage or die as a civilian.”
The teacher's assistant and the children are nervous, but she encourages them, and they paint a landscape with the mountains, animals, rivers. A painting that depicts hope is Carmen’s way to rebel to those who are trying to steal the peace in the village.
But the classroom seats start to get empty as families quietly to flee for safety -- they realize that the danger is nigh and it’s impossible to cover it with smiles and colours.
Meanwhile, adults try to avoid at all costs any association with either forces. As the confrontations in between guerrilla, military and paramilitary increase in the area, some families start migrating looking for safety. The village becomes more desolated and somber. Others take decisions too late and tragedy catches up with them.
Helicopters flying around and the sounds of shootings announce a violence getting closer and later would leave its imprint in town.
Manuel flirts again with danger when he tries for the last time to rescue his new ball. He succeeds, but the enthusiasm is not the same now that his friends are gone and his future uncertain.
The Colours of the Mountain, inspired in works from directors such as Abbas Kiarostami, is a simple film. Its force lies on its message, its narrative and the children’s performances (especially Ocampo’s). They have contributed to the film with poetry interpreting their characters.
The cast is conformed with mostly amateur actors (only Hernán Mendez and Natalia Cuéllar are professional actors). To find the protagonists Manuel, Julian and Poca Luz, Arbeláez casted near 3000 children.
Aberlaez skillfully narrates the violence prescinding of graphic scenes – the panic and anxiety can be felt as the film goes on gradually as the story unfolds from a happy, generous landscapes of the Colombian Andes (courtesy of cinematographer Oscar Jiménez) and chidlren's joy to a desolated village torn apart by war.
The film also observes family violence and male dominance.
The Colours of the Mountain (Rated 12+) will be screened on Sunday, April 15 in the Vancity Theatre and on Tuesday 17 at the Pacific Cinematheque.
For more information on the film and the festival, visit: www.r2rfestival.org.