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Winning the peace

We talked to director Natalia Orozco about her film, When the Guns Go Silent, and the peace process in Colombia.

Av 3. nov 2017

42-year-old Natalia Orozco is probably better known as a journalist than director in her home country Colombia. She has covered elections, wars and geopolitics for a number of international news media, and has won the Simón Bolivar National Journalism Award  for her work twice. She has a Master’s Degree in Humanitarian Cooperation from the prestigious Sorbonne University in Paris.

With her film When the Guns Go Silent, Orozco looks upon the peace process between the FARC guerrilla and the government in Colombia. After the 52 year long war, the peace process was initiated by president Juan Manuel Santos, who won the Nobel Peace Prize in 2016.

When we ask Orozco about her ambitions for When the Guns Go Silent she tells that she wanted to show human process behind the negotiating for peace:

– It was important to me to show the audience how far the FARC guerrilla and the government stood apart. These are historical enemies with diametrically different views of the world. Just that the parties wanted to face each other with the help of words - and not weapons – was a great victory by itself. In addition, it was important to express both the motivation and the fears of launching the peace process. After all, this was a process that not only affected the two sides of the conflict but the whole country.

In addition to show how the peace process took place, the film is an important testimony of the devastating effect the war has had on the country in general. Since its inception, over eight million people have lost their lives in the conflict. Orozco points out that the war demolished the behaviour of both legitimate and illegal military groups. The violence was also fuelled by the country’s middle and privileged class’ indifference to the war.

What was  the main challenges when making the film?

 –Without a doubt, building trust with both sides of the negotiation table was one of the biggest challenges. The documentary’s filming period started when Colombia was facing an intense war, and anyone could be a spy, filter information, or use it to undermine the process.

–Many people told me at the beginning that getting access to the high government officials who were negotiating, or the guerrilla commanders, to have a more intimate, human approach, was impossible because of the state of the conflict. But we accomplished it. Then came the challenge of maintaining that confidence, without putting at risk the distance and the critical eye to the excesses committed by all sides, a critical approach that was also indispensable for the making of this documentary

How did people in Colombia react to the film?

– Despite the fact that the film was shown outside the" prime time "at the cinema, it was undoubtedly a success. We had the hope that at least 2000 people would watch the film, but after just one week, 9000 people had already seen it, which allowed the distributor to show the movie at the cinema for another two weeks.

In addition to the commercial success, the debate in Colombia afterwards has showed that the film has succeeded to show a nuanced image of the conflict.

–  Both people who support and people who oppose the peace process wrote to me in social media and by mail after they saw the film. Both sides has actually described the film as balanced, and to my surprise the discussions after screenings have been on high standard, and with respect for the spoken word and the difference of ideas. That has been my greatest satisfaction. Every day we get requests from schools, victims’ organizations, and universities, asking us to show the film and do the non-violent communication training initiative that we are working on along with the film.

Which filmmakers and documentaries have inspired you? 

–To me, The Act of Killing by Joshua Oppenheimer has been very important. In addition, I must mention Five Broken Cameras from the Israel / Palestine conflict and The Devil's Freedom from Mexico as important sources of inspiration. Most importantly, perhaps, are Patricio Guzman's films, and his amazing visual representation of Chile's history.

In addition to visiting Film from the South and several other festivals, Orozco wants to show the film for as many as possible in Colombia. Both for the previously indifferent upper class, or the part of the population that has been most affected by the war. Also, she is already working on a new movie that will act as a part of two of When the Guns Go Silent.

– My new movie should not handle the cost of war and peace, but about what it means for a human being to be dragged between his or her principles and aspirations in pursuit of power.

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THE CRITICAL ROOM: FINALLY PEACE, AFTER HALF A CENTURY OF WAR?

We have invited director Natalia Orozco to a talk with Anne Heidi Kvalsøren, UDs special representative in Colombia, about the process and the possibilities for securing peace in Colombia. The conversation is moderated by Liv Tørres from Nobel Peace Center. 

The event is a collaboration between Films From the South and Nobel Peace Center. 

Buy tickets for the screening here.