Dark Beast: Felipe Guerrero’s brave debut piece
by Roberto Oggiano
- Shown at the Rotterdam Film Festival, Colombian director Felipe Guerrero’s first feature film is a brave and innovative attempt
This year the International Film Festival Rotterdam, which has always been keen on finding new talented filmmakers, is showing the debut piece by Felipe Guerrero, a young Colombian director who has made his first foray into the industry with Dark Beast [+see also:
film profile], three portraits of three women on the run, in a country marked by a civil war that lasted for over forty years. Yet in the film, the conflict is confined to the background, the director portrays the violence without showing it, an invisible but constant and anxiety-producing presence. The film contains no dialogue and it is music that is used to embellish the scenes when necessary.
This use of music plays an important role in the film’s structure: the paradox of the modern champeta listened to by the paramilitaries in the countryside in contrast to the traditional cumbia vallenata listened to in a hotel in Bogotà is no accident: the guerrilla warfare, the changes in governments, the thousands of people killed were all for nothing, says Guerrero: “there are many ways of interpreting conflict, and this is necessary. I was trying to find a new way of portraying war. I wanted to show the consequences of conflict, but I didn’t want to make the film specific to Colombia. The country that is portrayed could just as easily be any other” explained the director at Rotterdam.
The film’s strength lies in the way it casts no clear moral judgement over events, this isn’t a film made to condemn a specific group of people, but rather to pose a series of questions. To whom and why was this war useful? Suffering does not seem to be a suitable answer.
But what is really striking about Guerrero’s film is his confident use of film techniques; the parallel editing gives the film fluidity, the first lingering shots of the faces of the protagonists counterbalance the wide shots of the Colombian Andes, outposts of a hostile environment to be escaped to seek salvation in the city.
Bogotà is the common goal to aim for, despite all of the women having different pasts, marked by the dominating violence of the Colombian countryside. “I don’t think the war is over”, Felipe Guerrero confesses, “but I wanted to use the film to send out a message of hope, I wanted to tell the stories of those who were saved: the fact that the protagonists are women is pure coincidence, but over the years I’ve spent researching the conflict, I noticed that it’s them who show the greatest bravery”.
(Translated from Italian)