Two million displaced persons, 35,000 murders per year, 70,000 mines scattered all over the country, a kidnapping every ten minutes: Colombia is the theatre of one of the most tragic wars of our time.
In WELCOME TO COLOMBIA, filmmaker Catalina Villar travels across her country - through territory held by guerrillas, paramilitaries and government forces - during the course of Colombia's 2002 presidential election. Everywhere she finds people who are tired of the fighting and the blaming, and who simply want peace.
Among the people she encounters are group of Colombian activists who create a satirical street theatre performance. One of the floats features President Andres Pastrana sitting on the toilet, his "Stars and Stripes" boxers clearly visible. At his side is a roll of toilet paper. Each sheet is marked "Peace."
But Pastrana is only one of the many villains in Colombia's decades-long civil war. Fuelled in large part by drug money, the war pits the government and right-wing paramilitaries against powerful guerrilla groups, of which the best known is FARC.
Although Villar herself shows little sympathy for the guerrillas, she also offers a counterpoint to sensational television coverage and government propaganda that obscures the fact that the vast majority of the killings in the civil war are perpetrated, not by guerrillas, but by paramilitaries.
The law-and-order candidate Alvaro Uribe wins the election easily, but as Villar journeys from Cauca to the Pacific Coast, from Caguan to Bogota, she finds hope in people - indigenous groups, social justice activists, feminist groups - working for positive, peaceful change.
"A rich portrayal of Colombia's crisis. Powerful! The documentary's core strength rests in the coice it gives to Colombians as the come to terms with the conflict."—The Americas
2004 Latin American Studies Association Conference
"Recommended. Seeking to give voice to the multiple Colombian viewpoints, Villar interviews many different representatives of Colombian society: supporters of the right-wing presidential candidate, left-wing guerillas, a philosopher, indigenous groups, activists, feminists. In addition to interviews and personal reflections and commentary, Villar provides extensive footage of demonstrations, rallies, news footage and political speeches. She chooses to avoid sensational images of violence and its aftermath in an attempt to capture the humanity behind the violence."—Educational Media Reviews Online