Andrew Okpeaha MacLean, director, On the Ice
Thinking back on my trip to Colombia and my entire FILM FORWARD experience. I love travelling. I love going to places that I’ve never been before, seeing new things and meeting new people. I’ll happily travel as a simple tourist, but one thing I’ve learned is that the experience is so much richer when you travel with a film.
Bringing On the Ice to Colombia meant that I had an instant connection to every place we went. We were able to go to places that would never be on a tourist’s agenda. We went to places like the cultural center in one of the poorest neighborhoods in Manizales, where we screened for a group of students from low income families. While the film screened, Jaqueline and I asked the director of the center if we could walk down to a local market. She was reluctant to let us go, because of safety concerns, but agreed to take us if we left all our valuables locked in her office. We walked several blocks to find a market very different from any other we had seen so far. There wasn’t a single souvenir to be found, no pan flutes, no alpaca sweaters, no manufactured tchotchkes. Instead there was everything that the locals need to survive, including all sorts of fruit that I had never seen before, and a huge section with local plants and herbs. It smelled amazing.
But the best part about bringing a film to a place is the connection that it brings with the people, the audiences. The audiences who saw the film here were so different from any others the film has screened for. They’re not the type of audience that you find at a festival or the cineplex. At a screening in Neira, a coffee growing center near Manizales, we were told that some of the people may have never seen a film screened before. I find it hard to believe, but that’s what they told us. I’ll never forget the question I got from one kid there. He asked, with great seriousness, “I’ve been wondering the whole film… why do they have refrigerators?” (Translated from Spanish)
The question is funny, but it points to the kind of cultural exchange that the film engenders. None of the audience members had ever met someone from the Arctic before. The film showed a life that was in many ways completely unfamiliar to them. Hopefully the film was able to teach them a little bit about life in Alaska, at least a small fraction of what I learned about Colombia.