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Colombia’s peace process is captured on film

Guerrillas in their midst

Colombia’s peace process is captured on film. Plus, Portugal’s visions of the Virgin Mary

Colombia’s peace process is captured on film. Plus, Portugal’s visions of the Virgin Mary

August/September 2017

Roh resurrected
After the impeachment of the previous president for abuse of power, South Korea recently picked a new one. Yet it is a late head of state who is drawing crowds to the country’s screens. “Roh Moo-hyun Imnida” (“Our President”), a gushing account of the 2002 election, has become the most popular South Korean documentary ever. In a country in which anger at the lack of opportunity for ordinary people is growing, this story of an underdog’s rise resonates. Born a peasant, Roh was ridiculed in office for his public maladroitness and hounded by allegations of corruption. In 2009 he killed himself. South Koreans have wrung their hands ever since. Now the film lets them wring their handkerchiefs instead.

Tricks for clicks
Pranks are a long-standing staple of comedy in the Czech Republic and “One Man Show”, a covertly filmed series, has become a sensation. Last year its creators were behind a viral video of an American ice-hockey fan urinating in a Russian star player’s skate, which sparked outrage in the Russian media. In May a bizarre instalment scored 3m views in a week, more than triple the usual number. Bored, like many Czechs, of banal reality shows, the producers smuggled their own increasingly odd contestant onto a popular cooking programme. Although their dishevelled actor slept in a coffin, raised chickens in his flat and had a constant erection, the real contestants never guessed they were being conned.

Guerrillas in their midst
Making “El Silencio de Los Fusiles” (The silence of the guns, above), the first film to document Colombia’s historic peace process,  “involved following all the characters without judging them,” says Natalia Orozco, the director. She spent four years filming the leaders on all sides of one of the bloodiest conflicts in history, the 53-year armed fight between the FARC guerrillas and the government. The film opened this year’s Cartagena film festival to rapturous applause on the same day that the FARC began to hand over its arms to the United Nations. Recalling “One Hundred Years of Solitude”, his nation’s most famous novel, President Juan Manuel Santos marvelled at this “Macondian coincidence” – reality so unbelievable it had to have been tinged with magic.

Footpath to heaven
A century ago in Fátima, just north of Lisbon, three children reported seeing visions of the Virgin Mary. Since then millions have paid their respects. This May, during a papal visit, two of the children were canonised. With “Fátima”, João Canijo, one of Portugal’s best-known directors, has made his own tribute. He hired 11 female actors to make the 400km pilgrimage on foot from Bragança and filmed their journey, creating a beautiful, ruminative piece of “slow cinema”. Hollywood blockbusters have come and gone in recent months, but the homegrown “Fátima” has, in its steady way, made a deeper impression than them all.

Rodrigo the Canny
Politics in the Philippines is disturbing to outsiders. Even as lawyers and human-rights groups accuse President Rodrigo Duterte of authorising mass murder through his war on drugs, most ordinary Filipinos see him as a populist crusader concerned about public safety. An urge to boost that image may explain why in May Duterte began co-hosting a TV talk show, “Mula sa Masa, Para sa Masa” (From the masses, for the masses). Modelled on a popular show he once hosted as mayor of Davao City – where he is alleged to have supervised a death squad – it features a segment in which he takes questions from audience members. The masses are watching. 

Woman of steel
One of the pioneers of the fight for women’s education in Indonesia was a princess who died in childbirth in 1904 at the age of just 25. The short life of Raden Adjeng Kartini has been variously reinterpreted over the years. Sukarno, the country’s left-leaning founding president, named a day in her honour to celebrate her emancipatory legacy; Suharto, his right-wing successor, turned her into the ideal housewife. Now a new biopic, “Kartini”, has rehabilitated her as a modern heroine, gaining legions of fans for its depiction of the teenaged activist (played by a 35-year-old film star, Dian Sastrowardoyo) as a passionate feminist and autodidact rebelling against conservative Javanese social strictures. It’s a welcome departure from last year’s “Surat Cinta Untuk Kartini” (Love letter for Kartini) which centred on a sizzling – and totally fictitious – love affair.

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