Sjoerd van Grootheest and Irene Vélez-Torres on Chaos of Colombian Coca Growers in Bajo Fuego Doc [Exclusive Interview]

Bajo Fuego -Sjoerd van Grootheest and Irene Vélez-Torres

Bajo Fuego -Sjoerd van Grootheest and Irene Vélez-Torres

For years, many peasants in southwest Colombia dreamt of peace between the country’s government and Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC). Once peace arrived and promises made, the peaceful demands remained unfulfilled and the coca farmers remained penniless in poverty. Documentary directors Sjoerd van Grootheest and Irene Vélez-Torres filmed their stories in Bajo Fuego to portray the chaos ensued after its peace accords.

Bajo Fuego depicts the unraveling of peace for a group of coca growing peasants in the southwest of Colombia. The film takes the perspective of the ‘cocaleros’ and over a period of three years shows how they survive in the midst of the most difficult circumstances. The government delays in fulfilling what it promised in the agreement, economic difficulties arise for families that substituted their coca tress, and the increasing presence of armed groups start to terrorize the region. The promised peace in Colombia turns out to be an illusion when the newly armed groups take control, assassinations occur, and the films’ main protagonists are being threatened with their lives and displaced. Even though the peace was supposed signed in Colombia, Bajo Feugo shows that for many in the southwest of Colombia the war continues.

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LRM Online’s Gig Patta spoke with directors Sjoerd van Grootheest and Irene Vélez-Torres on their multi-year production filming the lives of these farmers in southwest Colombia. We discussed their willingness to talk, the peace situation, the major protest clash that closed down an international highway, and possible solutions.

Sjoerd van Grootheest graduated in cultural and media studies (MA) and anthropology with specialization in visual ethnography. His latest production was with Voces de Guerrilla that depicted a year of demobilization of FARC in a rehabilitation camp in northern Cauca province.

Irene Vélez-Torres is a full professor at University of Valle, who specializes in socio-environmental conflicts and ethno-racial inequalities. In 2015, she produced two mid-length documentaries about environmental conflicts in the Cauca province. Her latest production is Voces de Gurerrilla that she produced with Sjoerd van Grootheest.

Bajo Feugo showcases at this year’s Human Rights Watch Film Festival from May 19-27. For more information, visit Humans Rights Watch Film Festival web site.

Watch the exclusive interview with Sjoerd van Grootheest and Irene Vélez-Torres on Bajo Feugo below. Let us know what you think.

Source: LRM Online Exclusive, FilmFreeway

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Gig Patta

Gig Patta is a journalist and interviewer for LRM and Latino-Review since 2009. He was a writer for other entertainment sites in the past with Collider and IESB.net. He originally came from the world of print journalism with several years as a reporter with the San Diego Business Journal and California Review. He earned his MBA from the Keller Graduate School of Management and BA in Economics from UC San Diego. Follow him on Instagram @gigpatta or Facebook @officialgigpatta.

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