Colombia’s Germán Arango and Ana María Muñoz, the director-producer duo behind Hot Docs International Spectrum competition title “Songs That Flood the River,” are prepping a host of new documentary and fiction features focused on race, gender, violence and resistance in the South American nation, Variety has learned.
Arango is developing “MC Silencio,” a Medellín-set musical drama in which the young resist and fight paramilitary aggression through hip-hop, and “The Man With the Trumpet,” a documentary that turns to film noir to delve into the murder of the director’s uncle and question the links between masculinity and violence in Medellín.
Both projects are produced by Yira Plaza, a fellow member of the Colectivo Audiovisual Pasolini de Medellín, which produced “Songs That Flood the River.” Commenting on Arango’s forthcoming projects, Muñoz said: “His line of work has not abandoned formal experimentation, but is moving towards more personal and autobiographical topics.”
Muñoz herself is working on a new documentary feature film set in the village of Pogue, the Black community at the heart of “Songs.” “La Selva y la Luna” (The Moon and the Jungle) explores the construction of a sisterhood by the girls of the local community as a way to survive and find happiness, following their efforts to navigate a hostile environment marked by racism, patriarchy, and the surrounding jungle that both nurtures life while offering the threat of death.
Muñoz is also in the development stage of an experimental documentary film, “MalaMadre” (BadMother), an autobiographical exploration which she’ll direct about high-risk pregnancies and the deconstruction of the notion of motherhood in Latin American feminism.
With their new projects, the two filmmakers will continue the exploration of marginalized Colombian lives they brought to bear on “Songs That Flood the River,” a film centered on the traditional songs sung by Afro-Colombian women in one of the most untamed and violent regions in the world: the jungles of the Chocó province on Colombia’s Pacific coast.
The alabaos sung by the region’s women have become a mechanism to unite communities, foster resistance, overcome the horrors of war, express pain, and raise a cry for peace. These powerful songs—heard across the world during the 2016 signing of the peace agreement between the Colombian government and FARC guerrillas after 60 years of war—have been created by a group of women who sing their melodies and compose their lyrics while washing clothes, cooking, braiding, or performing other household and outdoor tasks.
“With ‘Songs That Flood the River,’ we aim to put the focus on the strength of these women, the resistance of the Afro-Colombian people and the imperative need to end war,” said Arango, who has been accompanying the communities of the Bojayá River for over eight years throughout their reconciliation process. “These women have lived through a relentless war that has hit them hard day after day, and their way to respond is through songs, unity and tradition.”
Filmed over the course of four years, “Songs That Flood the River” presented its creators with a host of logistical challenges, due to the combination of Pogue’s “remote location, the persistent armed conflict and the unquestionable absence of the state” in a village that has no electricity or running water, according to Muñoz.
“As this place has approximately 100 houses and less than 600 inhabitants, it was important for me to work with a small crew able to display not only an artistic, but a social vision of cinema, and a capacity to adapt empathically to life dynamics in the community,” said the producer.
“I think that our highest achievement in terms of production was the engagement with the people,” she continued. “Our current challenge is focused on sharing with our audience the priceless beauty that the women of Pogue have allowed us to witness, and intertwine the exhibition of the film with the urgent cry for peace and the achievement of better living conditions for the Black communities of the Bojayá River.”
The film’s premiere coincides with the 19th anniversary of the Bojayá massacre, which took place on May 2, 2002 in the town of Bellavista, where more than 100 villagers were killed after a cylinder bomb exploded in the church where they were taking refuge from area fighting. It arrives at a time of widespread unrest in Colombia, where protests against poverty and inequality that have worsened during the coronavirus pandemic have met with a violent government crackdown in recent weeks, leaving at least 24 dead.
“Songs That Flood the River,” said Muñoz, “is in part the result of the longing for…peace undertaken by these communities through their songs, their traditions and their struggle.”