Synopsis

Ernesto is one of many FARC guerrillas who dream about a better country worth fighting for, but this time without a weapon. After 52 years of armed conflict, the FARC guerrillas are about to hand over their arms in exchange for social changes and political participation.

However, as Ernesto is taking his first steps towards politics and normal life, the much-celebrated peace agreement throws Colombia into chaos. Many Colombians want to rescue the country from the FARC terrorists, among them a passionate right-wing politician and a descendant of Spanish conquistadors. Meanwhile, the farmers cultivating coca could escape poverty, but only if the peace agreement is respected.

While Colombia faces a crucial opportunity for change, Ernesto and the polarized society around him are driven into a situation in which everyone fears for the future and their own survival. Many think the war is senseless, but can find a justification for it and are willing to take justice into their own hands if necessary — even at the cost of peace.

What happens to a fragile peace in an unequal country if doing the ‘wrong’ thing may easily be justified as the only means of struggle? Colombia in My Arms is an intimate, strong and sincere portrait of people at the extremes of Colombian society depicting controversial dreams about how to achieve a better society to live in. Through the situation of one country, this documentary reflects the human condition on a universal level.

“An impressive documentary film far from reportage style, a wide angled visual interpretation, a drama with strong characters. The filmmakers have succeeded in creating a drama as good as any fiction.”

Tue Steen Müller / Film consultant, critic and former director of the European Documentary Network
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CRITICS’ RESPONSE

“An impressive documentary film far from reportage style, a wide angled visual interpretation, a drama with strong characters. The filmmakers have succeeded in creating a drama as good as any fiction.”

Tue Steen Müller / Film consultant, critic and former director of the European Documentary Network (Denmark)

“Colombia in My Arms is an important documentary on the current panorama of Colombian society. The filmmakers go straight to the point.”

Jorge Cruz Jr. / Apostila de Cinema (Brazil)

“The filmmakers manage to structure a fluid and aesthetic narrative where the words say as much as the music and the images. There are clear subtexts in this documentary and that is one of its greatest merits. The characters are treated with respect, but without condescension, and the directors deftly avoid pamphletism and political activism by presenting the different sides of the coin.”

Jerónimo Rivera-Betancur / Film professor, critic and jury, author of film articles and books (Colombia)

“Eloquent and sensitive. Dreamlike quality interrupted by occasional bursts of violence. Balanced glimpse into the consequences of Colombian’s much-heralded peace accord.”

Nick Holdsworth / The European Documentary Magazine (UK)

“Another value of the work is the cinematographic one. Colombia in My Arms is a work where the editing has a significant role, a captivating soundtrack, an agile surprising narrative.””

Juan Carlos Romero / Film Professor, Director of Film and digital communication studies / El País (Colombia)

★★★★★★★★ 8.5 / 10

João Francisco Milani / Outra hora (Brazil)

★★★★★★★★★ 9 / 10

Taís Wölfert / Teoria Geek (Brazil)

DIRECTORS’ WORD

Although we have both lived in Colombia and South America for years, we have never thought to make a film about the Colombian conflict. Initially, as foreigners, we didn’t have a personal connection to this immense topic. However, because of our personal backgrounds in Latin America we happened to be in Colombia around the time of the peace agreement being signed between the FARC guerrillas and the Colombian Government.

The country seemed to be breathing a hope — maybe for the first time in its recent history. Suddenly, we were offered an opportunity to film in a guerrilla camp, which became possible due to this historic event. Taking this chance would lead to us to work in Colombia for a year and half, on an extensive film related to the conflict.

The original idea was to make a beautiful and calm poetic documentary about peace, reflecting the capacity of human beings to coexist and share a country after decades of armed conflict. However, soon the atmosphere in Colombia both in the rural areas and cities started to intensify. There was a clear opposition to the peace accord and you could see actions taking place that were anything but peaceful.

As uncertainty, fear and confusion rose all over the country and as the people we were filming began to face challenges, we felt it important to start following the escalating societal situation. The much-celebrated peace did not seem so apparent anymore. We understood the reality at hand was much more complex than we had originally thought and many of our preconceptions had been proven wrong.

Already in the beginning we decided to create a polyphonic documentary that would listen to several characters’ opinions from across Colombian society. In looking for characters and a balance for the documentary we assessed who seemed to be the protagonists of the current circumstances.

Eventually, after an organic process of extensive work, good contacts and lucky coincidences we found ourselves close to people who opposed each other, yet were very open to discuss difficult matters with foreign filmmakers. We were seen as neutral, as we were not part of the conflict. This was an opportunity to open windows for the audience to better understand the diverse realities that gave rise to this chaotic situation.

When forming the first ideas about the film we ran into an article about Wetiko. According to a native American tribe the Europeans — the colonizers of the continent they claimed to have discovered — suffered from a disease called Wetiko. This disease made its carrier think that abusing other human beings’ vital energy was a reasonable way to live. This became one of the main leads for this documentary. To what extent are the current human societies possessed by Wetiko?

As the American continent has been remarkably established in an oppressive relationship, we wanted to examine the new Colombian context and ask if the mindset could change and whether people might finally find ways to live in peace after decades and centuries of abuse. Regarding the current conflict, both the state and the guerrillas could be accused of being abusive in many different ways. If the peace accord was about to be the ground-zero for a new era, would people continue to be abusive to one another?

With this film we’re not trying to explain the Colombian armed conflict. Through the eyes of distinct Colombians we observe how civilization is built, if peace can be possible in a polarized society and if not, then why not? It was clear we didn’t want to make propaganda for any group or political party, but to provide an unbiased view examining the situation from humane perspectives, leaning to change, towards non-violent actions and peaceful coexistence.

In the film we attempt to remain as true as possible to the things we personally witnessed. All the characters and all the events in the film are real, and there is no fictional element in this film: no actors, no fictitious or acted scenes, no planned dialogue. We filmed in Colombia for a year and half and immersed ourselves in the subject, making sure we had a profound view of the situation. The facts presented in the film have been evaluated to be truthful by Colombian experts and independent studies.

We think that local people should be equipped to tell their own stories and create their own works about the topics addressed. However, in this particular case we believe that as Europeans we have been able to access certain circles that are inaccessible to Colombians themselves. In addition, a Colombian filmmaker could put her or himself into great danger when dealing with a political subject. Only during the production of this film, 412 Colombian human rights defenders were murdered — in addition to them, one Colombian filmmaker and four journalists working in rural areas were killed in this post-peace accord era.

Aesthetically we wanted to make high quality cinema that would speak to the audience at all cinematic levels. The extensive time we spent in Colombia allowed us to refine the aspect of visual storytelling. Each image and element in the film has a significance, a symbolic value that adds to the story while creating the desired style and artistic qualities we were searching for. While filming we were intrigued to think of how García Márquez’ magical realism would be presented in a cinematic form.

We felt a need to create a film that would be equally valid for the international and Colombian audiences. In the editing this was a challenge, as well as forming a multi character intertwining narration that would provide sufficient information to understand the context, but not reducing the drama. We also had to acknowledge that we couldn’t avoid the film being taken politically although our filmmakers’ point of view was entirely humane. It took almost a year to achieve the correct balance during the editing phase.

Eventually, the film ended up being a very heavy documentary that deals with inequality, power and colonialism via both tragic and comic forms. The film portrays individuals who wish the best for their country, but are able to find justification for war under certain circumstances. The film lets the spectator approach distant bubbles that in an optimal world would understand each and achieve a lasting peace.

Although the film takes place in Colombia, we believe it deals with universal topics, closely observing the contemporary condition of humanity within the current global context. Our aim with the film is to make visible societal and human characteristics, some of which are counterproductive for humanity, while others keep us together regardless of our dissenting opinions. We hope the film can raise constructive discussion for bringing realities closer to each other.

Jenni Kivistö
Jenni Kivistö is a Finnish documentary film director who has lived and studied in Colombia for 7 years. She graduated from the Black Maria film school in 2013 (Colombia), and is currently completing her Documentary Film Master programme in Aalto University (Finland). Her short film Äiti (Mother, 2017) was awarded the Silver Mikeldi at ZINEBI and has been screened at major festivals like Clermont-Ferrand and Cairo International Film Festival. Her first feature-length documentary, Land Within (2016), had its world premiere at DOK Leipzig in 2016 in the Next Masters competition.
Jussi Rastas
Jussi Rastas is a Finnish documentary film director and cinematographer who has lived several years in South America; in Colombia, Peru and Chile. Jussi has graduated as a Master in Digital Media (University of Jyväskylä, Finland) and studied cinematography in Spain (ESCAC). In the recent years before starting filming Colombia in My Arms, Jussi worked as an audiovisual delegate for the Red Cross in conflict and disaster zones in Ukraine, Syria and Africa.

AWARDS

Dragon Award - Best Nordic Documentary - Göteborg Film Festival

“This award is given for the curiosity of the directors in observing vastly different opposing groups, resulting in a polyphonic portrait of a country in which peace doesn’t seem welcome. The precise use of photography and editing submerges us in the differing realities presented and creates a stark contrast between the political sensibilities at play in the natural and urban environments, and the associated poverty and luxury. This film goes beyond being an intimate portrait of a country, and makes us reflect upon colonialism and post-colonialism, capitalism and anti-capitalism, and what keeps us going as humanity.”

The Jury of Göteborg Film Festival
★ DRAGON AWARD - BEST NORDIC DOCUMENTARY 2020
43rd Göteborg Film Festival - Sweden
★ GOLDEN OWL - BEST FEATURE FILM 2020
10th Balneário Camboriú International Film Festival - Brazil
★ NEW NORDIC VOICE AWARD - DOCUMENTARY 2020
31st Nordisk Panorama - Sweden
★ DOC:SOUTH AWARD - BEST DOCUMENTARY 2020
Films From The South - Norway
★ INTERNATIONAL EYE AWARD
16th Sucre International Human Rights Film Festival - Bolivia
★ AWARD OF THE ITALIAN CINEMA CIRCLE FEDERATION - HUMAN RIGHTS DOC 2020
★ HUMAN RIGHTS DOC 2020 SPECIAL MENTION
12th Naples Human Rights Film Festival - Italy
★ HONORIFIC MENTION
23rd Festival Ícaro - Guatemala
★ AWARD AÏNA ROGER ESJ LILLE
★ SPECIAL MENTION
27th FIGRA - Festival international du grand reportage d’actualité et du documentaire de société - France
★ SPECIAL MENTION
12th The Râsnov Film and Histories Festival - Romania
★ SPECIAL AWARD
11th HumanDOC International Documentary Film Festival - Poland

“The best film was a big surprise due to the depth of reflection and seriousness when dealing with an urgent topic. Colombia in My Arms is a film that elevates the greatness of documentary cinema.”

The Jury of the Balneário Camboriú International Film Festival (Brazil)

“A strength within the documentary field is to seek out and go back to places to see what happens after the media’s spotlight on long term conflicts are gone. [...] Beautifully shot, with images observant to details and a conscious use of sound makes the film unforgettable.”

FESTIVALS

43rd Göteborg Film Festival - Sweden
DocPoint Helsinki Documentary Film Festival - Finland
27º FIGRA Festival international du grand reportage d’actualité et du documentaire de société - France
Thessaloniki Documentary Festival - Greece
Festival Résistances - France
Doqumenta International Film Festival - Mexico
16th Sucre International Human Rights Film Festival - Bolivia
12th Râsnov Film & Histories Film Festival - Romania
31st Nordisk Panorama - Sweden
Cinemaissí - Finland
44th MOSTRA - Sao Paulo International Film Festival - Brazil - New Filmmakers Competition
65th SEMINCI Semana Internacional de Cine de Valladolid - Spain - Time of History Competition
International Human Rights Film Festival - Colombia - Opening film
31st Festival International Du Film D’Histoire de Pessac - France
12th Naples Human Rights Film Festival - Italy
Nordic/Docs - Norway
11th HumanDOC International Documentary Film Festival - Poland
Films From The South - Norway
10th Balneário Camboriú International Film Festival - Brazil
23rd Festival Ícaro - Guatemala
10th Human Rights Documentary Film Days - Turkey
7th Peloponnisos International Documentary Festival - Greece
42nd Havana Film Festival - Cuba
Colombia in My Arms - Colombia fue nuestra - Official Poster
Colombia in My Arms - Colombia fue nuestra - Alternative Poster

Main credits

Written and directed by Jenni Kivistö & Jussi Rastas
Cinematography by Jussi Rastas
Edited by Jenni Kivistö & Jussi Rastas, Sully Reed, Antti Jääskeläinen

Music composed by Povl Kristian
Sound Design by Rasmus Winther Jensen
Produced by Filmimaa Ltd / Markku Tuurna

In Co-production with

Les Films d’un Jour / Sébastien Tézé
Hansen & Pedersen Film / Malene Flindt Pedersen
Medieoperatørene / Ingvil Giske

Produced with support from

Finnish Film Foundation / Pekka Uotila
AVEK / Outi Rousu
Danish Film Institute / Cecilia Lidin
Fritt Ord / Bente Roalsvik
Nordisk Film & TV Fond / Karolina Lidin

Produced in collaboration with

YLE / Erkko Lyytinen

FRANCE TELEVISIONS
France 2 Communication / Isabelle Delécluse
Production / Dominique Faure, Cristelle Poirson, Nelly Dutreuilh
Head of Documentary Unit / Catherine Alvaresse

DR / Anders Bruus

NRK / Fredrik Faerden

CONTACT / DISTRIBUTION

info@colombiainmyarms.com

Filmimaa Ltd
markku.tuurna@filmimaa.fi
+358 50 5666 596

INTERNATIONAL SALES:

Journeyman Pictures
sales@journeyman.tv
+ 44 (0) 20 8786 6059

FESTIVAL DISTRIBUTION:

Raina Film Festival Distribution / Andy Norton
andy@rainafilms.com
+ 358 44 970 6841

TECHNICAL INFORMATION

Genre: Documentary
Year: 2020
Running-time: 91 minutes
Original language: Spanish, English
Filming location: Colombia
Production: Finland, France, Denmark, Norway

International title: Colombia in My Arms
Title in Spanish: Colombia fue nuestra
Title in Brazil: Colômbia era nossa

Aspect ratio: 16:9
Shooting format: HD
Screening formats: DCP / QuickTime ProRes 422 / H.264
Sound: 5.1 / 2.0 stereo
Subtitles: English, Spanish, French, Portuguese, Italian, Greek

A DOCUMENTARY FILM WRITTEN AND DIRECTED BY JENNI KIVISTÖ & JUSSI RASTAS CINEMATOGRAPHY JUSSI RASTAS EDITORS JENNI KIVISTÖ, JUSSI RASTAS, SULLY REED & ANTTI JÄÄSKELÄINEN MUSIC POVL KRISTIAN SOUND DESING & MIX RASMUS WINTHER JENSEN COLORIST CAÏQUE & CÉDRIC JOUAN PRODUCED BY FILMIMAA LTD MARKKU TUURNA CO-PRODUCED WITH LES FILMS D´UN JOUR SÉBASTIEN TEZE, HANSEN, & PEDERSEN FILM MALENE FLINDT PEDERSEN, MEDIEOPERATØRENE INGVIL GISKE IN COLLABORATION WITH YLE, FRANCE TELEVISIONS, DR2, NRK WITH THE SUPPORT OF FINNISH FILM FOUNDATION, AVEK, DANISH FILM INSTITUTE, FRITT ORD, NORDISK FILM & TV FOND
Filmimaa Les Films d'un Jour Hansen & Pedersen France TV France 2 Yle Finnish Film Foundation Rough Cut Service NRK NFTF DR AVEK Danish Film Institute Fritt Ord Medieoperatørene