Monday, September 25, 2023

Chocó: The film that’s surprised Colombians

Everything starts with a little girl’s request, which anywhere else in the world would likely be easy to fulfill.

Karent Hinestroza was cast as Chocó, the lead actress in the film of the same name. She plays an Afro-Colombian mother who, despite not having a steady job, must provide for her husband and two children. (Courtesy of Proimagenes)

Anywhere but Chocó, a department in northwest Colombia.

The girl asks for a colorful birthday cake with candles to blow out. However, her family’s dire financial situation makes her wish impossible to grant.

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The family’s inability to afford something that could be considered so simple symbolizes the economic hardships faced by the department’s residents.

It’s also the first scene in director Johnny Hendrix Hinestroza’s Chocó, which has been seen by 500,000 on the big screen nationwide since its premiere on Aug. 3.

“The film is born of the reality I have seen and have grown up with in my region,” Hendrix Hinestroza said. “One day, I heard two women discussing their lives and it happened that both were involved with the same man. From that experience, I started to research the women of Chocó to understand how they live, how their partners treat them and what they do to get ahead. The result is a film that reflects Chocó’s genuineness.”

In the film, Chocó – the main character – is played by Colombian Karent Hinestroza. She’s an unemployed Afro-Colombian mother and wife who had to leave her land and move to another region within the department. She’s forced to take care of her 8-year-old daughter, 6-year-old son and jobless husband, who spends his time drinking and playing dominoes, neglecting his family.

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The film sheds light on the daily lives of the people of Chocó, especially in terms of their displacement, illegal mining and unemployment, forcing the Colombian public to recognize the department’s struggles, said Faride Ortiz, a film critic and sociologist at the Universidad Nacional de Colombia.

For example, about 215,000 people were displaced within the department of Chocó from 1999 to 2011, according to the Center for Human Rights and the Displaced (CODHES).

“The movie reflects how the director feels,” Ortiz said. “It shows his surroundings and what he lived with most of his life. The movie reflects reality, as the department of Chocó does not seem to exist in the eyes of the country. Therefore, what it shows is its harsh reality.”

Chocó is a groundbreaking movie since no Colombian film has explored the issues of race and mistreatment of women in such depth as Hendrix Hinestroza’a masterpiece, said Monika Wagenberg, who directs the International Film Festival of Cartagena (FICCI) where the film received the audience award last February.

The movie also shows how hundreds of illegal miners in the Chocó region risk their lives every day attempting to extract just a few grams of gold to provide for their families.

“People criticize me because I show the sexism or the issue of [illegal] mining, but these are elements that make up part of Chocó,” Hendrix Hinestroza said.

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Illegal mining in Chocó can cost Colombia US$891,000 a week, according to the Mining Federation of Chocó, an entity created in 2011 to control illegal mining throughout the department.

“Mining plays a very important role in the department’s economy,” Chocó Gov. Luis Gilberto Murillo said at a recent media conference. “We know mining generates 10,000 direct jobs and 15,000 indirect jobs, but we also have figures indicating there are 400 legal claims. What is not so clear is how many illegal mines there are in the department. In the end, people work where they are paid and that’s the reality in the department.”

International reception

The film has been applauded by international audiences.

Chocó was selected for the 62nd International Film Festival in Berlin in February. It will also be screened at the Latin American Film Festival in Washington, D.C., and the Latin American Film Festival of Sidney, Australia, by the end of the month.
Via Infosurhoy /TodayColombia

“The character of Chocó is the main focus of the film, since she represents the courage of all the women in the world,” Hendrix Hinestroza said. “When the movie debuted in Berlin, a Russian woman thanked me for having told her story. I realized I had accomplished my goal: to tell a universal story.”

It’s important the issue of domestic violence plays a major role in the movie since the mistreatment of women is plaguing the department, Juanita Llano, a psychologist who specializes in domestic violence, said.

National Institute of Legal Medicine figures show 296 women were abused by their partners in Chocó in 2011.

“The film tells us that these issues are far from ending in our country,” Llano said. “”The movie is a clear example and a call to authorities to be more rigorous in bringing these aggressors to justice. The story of the main character is the story of many women in Colombia and throughout the world. Chocó is just the stage on which the issue played out. However, the same subject could have come up in Africa, Asia and the Americas.”

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