COLOMBIA: Is there any link between the production of images and our experience of war? Colombian director Federico Atehortúa Arteaga poses this question in his debut film Mute Fire.

Sevara Pan
Sevara Pan is a journalist and film critic.
Published date: August 3, 2019

When we talk about Colombia, we have to speak about its war. Hailing from the country that has suffered significant losses from its protracted conflict, the director attempts to find a link between Colombia’s violent history and the country’s cinematic tradition. According to Atehortúa Arteaga, the beginnings of Colombian cinema could be traced back to the 1906 assassination attempt of then-President Rafael Reyes Prieto, which resulted in the capture and the execution of the four assailants. Following the incident, Reyes and photographer Lino Lara went on to recreate the attack and the apprehension of the assailants. Out of the 22 images of the photographic report, 14 were what the director called «theatrical reenactments» invested with the same degree of veracity as the pictures taken during the actual execution.

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Used and abused

Atehortúa Arteaga locates the birth of Colombian cinematic tale-making in the 1906 incident. The claim seems unsettling, yet the film leaves it at that, denying an opportunity of further elaboration on the created narrative and its legacy. Since the onset of the 20th century, images have been used and abused for a variety of purposes. Some unified and inspired hope, others divided and disheartened. Technological innovation has brought war closer, granting millions of people access to battlefields from the comforts of their homes. Civilians were pulled into war, allowing them to experience it almost exclusively through images. They could follow the progress of their armies, trace the lines of retreating enemies, and witness its grim actualities.


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