Filmmaker Travelogue: Reflections on screening Buck in Colombia

Sofia Santana, Associate Producer, Buck

Monday July 9, 2012

First Day In Bogota

I arrived last night in Colombia to start the FILM FORWARD program.  It’s kind of funny being on a trip with a bit of a diplomatic feel to it in a country that I have never called home, but feels like my homeland.  My mother is Colombian and since the age of two I have been here often (in particular to her hometown of Cartagena) to spend time with family. But here I am now traveling specifically as an American talking about a film about a cowboy from the West. 

Our first stop was Guatavita to spend time with our host Felipe Spath, meet an equine therapist dubbed the “horse whisperer” (Andres Villa), and screen Buck with kids and their parents in the town’s beautiful theater. Felipe is dedicating his life’s work to the idea that “Hay campo en el campo”, which means there is space in our rural areas (a little more poetic in Spanish).  Being so close to Bogota, many of the people here grow up dreaming of the assumed opportunity that would come with moving to the “big city.”  Ironically, it reminds me of movements to reclaim opportunity in cities where there is little investment and the goal is always to leave.  It also makes me think of Buck Brannaman and his methods that come out of living and understanding the land around you.  As more people dedicate themselves to preserving this lifestyle, it ensures that the lessons learned here—such as how to care for animals and work the land—continue.

Tuesday July 10, 2012

Second day in Bogota. We participated in a roundtable lunch with other filmmakers as part of the Bogota Audiovisual Market. My table discussed documentary film: commercial vs. creative. As we spoke (folks from Colombia and Brazil and the U.S.) it became apparent that we were all in the same struggle. The ambition is to be able to produce as artists and be able to utilize commercial work as a means to live, but also to explore resources and possibilities that as individual artists we may not have. In the end, it’s about finding a balance within the two.  “The hustle” is a constant if you commit to this work, and it is only possible with the word that the discussion leader used as conclusion to our chat: passion.

Wednesday July 11, 2012

Manizales!  We arrived in the coffee region today to Manizales, which is quite beautiful, but geographically concerning, as it is built in the mountains and you constantly wonder how the heck this all stays put.  I expressed my concern to several people here and they all seemed to smile and agree that it is completely nuts and most had a saying or quote that expressed that sentiment. We screened Buck at the Universidad de Caldas with students in their audiovisual program. Their program is focused on technology and strongly encourages interdepartmental work.  At lunch, speaking with the director of the program he explained that this is a public university where over half of the students can attend for free.  The q&a afterwards was mostly about production, but I had some good conversations with students afterwards.  One was a veterinarian (who takes a lot of film classes) who was particularly interested in Buck for that reason.  As we spoke more after the session, I realized his interest in the film was not only rooted in his studies but in his life experience. Obviously an animal lover, horses were the only animal he had trouble with after an accident as a child. We talked about that trauma and how, although he was aware of how to deal with it, starting that process was always the hardest part.  Living through a painful experience seems like the goal until you realize that you somehow have to figure out how to live with it.  I think he is building up to getting on a horse again. 

Thursday July 12, 2012

Second day in Manizales and we are doing screenings in some of the outlying towns.  May I just say, 16-year-olds are a tough crowd.  Whew.  After some short questions it seemed I was competing with the important going-ons of high school student’s lives as they chatted among themselves. Suddenly our host went teacher on them and before me were 40 young people with a lot to say (teachers are magic).  We talked about what role horses played in Buck’s life and what other things (art, friends) could aid us in processing what we sometimes carry with us.  A young girl shared that when her father left and she had hard times, the only comfort was her horse Shakira, who would always just listen.  Shakira also became a way for her to measure her own feelings, since the horse would often stay away when she was in a bad mood and would be extremely comforting when she noticed her need.  I was most excited when the students brought up the fact that there is a campaign to establish norms for the conditions of horses in the city (many are overworked and not properly cared for), which currently do not exist.  One of the students lives nearby one of the councilmen that will be voting and offered to take letters to his home.  I’m excited that Buck helped encourage them to get involved and I know Buck Brannaman would be pleased to know his message could be helping Colombian horses, too.

Friday July 13, 2012

We arrived in Cali today.  Warm weather and palm trees, a bit more my speed.  A little tapped out in terms of talking but we get the chance to discuss Buck and On the Ice with some students outside in the nice breeze, which is such a welcome change to being inside.  We also got to attend a reception for the CineToro Film Festival, an experimental film festival in a town outside of Cali.  I’ve noticed there is a large community of animators in Colombia, which is greatly reflected in some of the previews we saw.  I have no deep thought about that, just a curious observation.  Went on a hunt for some of Cali’s famed salsa.  We weren’t very successful but made the most out of what we found.

Saturday July 14, 2012

Last day in Cali and with FILM FORWARD and definitely one of my favorite days.  We visited a small town that had a very strong community media program.  There were many people producing documentaries with a definite emphasis on the importance that this has within their struggles.  They told me of an outdoor film program they had been running for six years, and had had to fight for many reasons, in which every Saturday they project films (mostly made in their community).  It was done in a square that was not always considered safe but every Saturday, rest assured the tone was calm and people were there to enjoy the show.  I met a young little boy named Alexis, who I denied coffee because he was too young (upon reflection I realize I was drinking coffee way before him, Colombians!).  Without blinking, though, he responded “Humans need coffee like the land needs water,” and I went to see about getting him coffee.  Unabashed and skilled use of drama should be rewarded.  We turned a q&a about our films into a q&a about their work and sparked a heated debate about what constitutes community media, its possible limits, and how experimental work fit in.  I don’t think we came to any hard conclusions, except that it is important to continually have this conversation.

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