Pornomiseria: Or How Not to Make a Documentary Film

by Michele Faguet
from Afterall

pornomiseriaIn the summer of 1971, while on vacation from film school at UCLA, Luis Ospina met with his childhood friend Carlos Mayolo, and together they decided to film the sixth Pan American Games taking place in their hometown of Cali, Colombia. The idea came after an earlier attempt to record Pope Paul VI’s visit to Colombia that didn’t happen due to a lack of economic resources. Equipped with a 16mm camera, which Mayolo had ‘borrowed’ (without permission) from the advertising agency in Bogotá where he worked, the two aspiring film-makers travelled to Cali, where they arrived just in time to miss the opening ceremonies and all of their pomp and political rhetoric,1 only to find that they would be excluded from all official venues without the proper permits, and that their arrival had been preceded by a film crew contracted by the Colombian state. Significantly, this official film crew was headed by Diego León Giraldo, a filmmaker iconic in Colombian film history as an early proponent of Cuban revolutionary cinema, and whose 1967 documentary Camilo Torres represented the first instance of militant cinema in Colombia.2 León Giraldo, however, had come to exemplify the ideological ambiguities and betrayals of a nascent national film industry struggling to define itself amidst the contradictory impulses of political commitment and aesthetic value, economic viability and mass visibility. more

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