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Colombia Film Culture: 8 Festivals, 7 Movies to See

San Pedro in Cartagena

Updated on 02/20/2024

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Colombian cinema provides a brief glimpse into the fascinating and incredible stories that the Colombian people have to tell. So, immerse yourself in national culture by learning about the best Colombian film festivals.

A Brief Overview of the Colombian Film Industry

Throughout its history, Colombian cinema has evolved since its arrival in 1897 and has experienced a notable resurgence in recent decades. Thus, it has established itself as a poignant, vibrant, and creative film industry. From predominantly documentary, dramatic, and comedic productions with a local character, it has grown into an emerging cultural force in Latin America.

Several productions have gained international recognition, contributing to the growing visibility and prestige of Colombian cinema in both local and internationally renowned film festivals. Films such as:

  • La Estrategia del Caracol
  • Los Colores de la Montaña
  • Los Reyes de Mundo
  • El Abrazo de la Serpiente

These festivals are crucial in the film industry for the following reasons:

  • Generate promotion and recognition
  • Expand the diversity of film genres
  • Create environments for cultural exchange
  • Showcase innovative and experimental films
  • Serve as the ideal venue for business and film distribution
  • Address crucial political and social issues

In summary, festivals play a fundamental role in Colombian cinema and culture. Below are the most prominent Colombian film festivals.

Film Festivals in Colombia

A film festival is an event organized with the aim of showcasing a selection of films, typically with a focus on independent, artistic, or auteur cinema. These events vary in size and scope, ranging from local to regional and international festivals.

According to the Ministry of Culture in Colombia, there are approximately 44 Colombian film festivals and showcases. Here are some of the most prominent ones:

International Film Festival of Cartagena de Indias

Founded in 1960, the International Film Festival of Cartagena is a free cinematic event with a social vocation. Its goal is to reward and promote Ibero-American cinema while attracting filmmakers, actors, and cinema enthusiasts from around the world.

Currently, 41 categories across various formats and genres of audiovisual productions are awarded, including dramatized, opinion, entertainment, specialized genres, and more. Remarkably, it is the oldest film festival in Latin America.

Location: Adolfo Mejía Theater in Cartagena, with transmissions in Plaza de la Aduana and Patio de Banderas.

Date: The date varies each year. For 2024, it is expected to be held from April 16 to 21.

Open to the Public: The event is not open to the general public, but broadcasts are accessible.

Award: A statuette of the India Catalina. The India Catalina was a Zenú indigenous woman who lived in the 16th century. Her role as an interpreter and mediator between indigenous people and Spanish colonizers in Colombia was crucial, giving her great cultural significance. Hence, her figure is used as an award.

Bogotá Film Festival

Established in 1984 to recognize Colombian cinema, the Bogotá Film Festival expanded its focus in 1985 to include Andean countries and pay homage to films from the Caribbean, South America, Spain, France, Africa, and the Pacific. It takes place annually in Bogotá and awards various honors depending on whether the film is national or international.

Internationally, the festival awards:

  • Best Film with the Pre-Columbian Circle in Gold, Silver, and Bronze categories.
  • Pre-Columbian Circle of Gold for Best Director, among the first three feature films by a director.
  • Best Social, Art, and Environmental Documentary.

Nationally, it awards:

  • Pre-Columbian Circle of Gold for Best Colombian Film.

This festival screens innovative and animated films and has been present in over 13 city spaces, often free of charge, including peripheral neighborhoods, prisons, shopping centers, parks, and universities.

Moreover, it hosts workshops, conferences, talks, and seminars for students and filmmakers. An interesting fact is that the Bogotá Film Festival was the first to honor the incredible director Pedro Almodóvar outside of his home country, Spain.

Location: Jorge Eliecer Gaitán Theater, Bogotá.

Date: November 15 to 22, 2023.

Open to the Public: The event is not open to the public, but broadcasts are allowed.

Award: Pre-Columbian disc.

Website: Bogocine Festival

Bogoshorts Film Festival

Bogoshorts Film Festival specializes in honoring short formats of audiovisual productions and serves as an official qualifier for prestigious awards such as the Oscars and the GOYA Awards from the Spanish Academy. The festival gathers and evaluates around 400 short films from Colombia and various countries in competitive, thematic, and retrospective sections. Additionally, it features artistic exhibitions, educational activities, and gastronomic events.

It’s worth noting that BOGOSHORTS film is also a circulation and distribution agency that licenses Colombian and Latin American shorts for use, mobilization, and commercialization in globally recognized film festivals.

Location: Cinemateca de Bogotá and Cinemateca de Bogotá El Tunal, Bogotá.

Date: December 5 to 12, 2023.

Open to the Public: The award ceremony is not open to the public, but there are many activities in which the audience can participate. Additionally, the event can be viewed on BOGOSHORTS TV, their YouTube channel, and on BOGOSHORTS, their Facebook account.

Award: Santa Lucía statuette. Santa Lucía is a Christian saint revered in the Catholic tradition for her immense faith in God and charitable vocation. The statuette is awarded as she represents the faith and vision necessary for filmmaking, and she is considered the saint of cinema.

Website:  https://festival.bogoshorts.com/index.php

International Film Festival of Barranquilla

The International Film Festival of Barranquilla takes place annually in Barranquilla. Compared to other festivals, it is relatively recent, created on March 16, 2013. Its goal is to award Colombian or Ibero-American films or feature films in the following categories:

  • Best Ibero-American feature film
  • Best Caribbean feature film
  • Best national film
  • Best documentary
  • Best international short film
  • Best national short film.

This event also screens different films for 224 hours in the streets of Atlántico and nearby municipalities.

Open to the Public: The award ceremony is not open to the public, but there are many activities in which the audience can participate, such as film and script creation workshops.

Award: Blue lobster statuette.

Barichara Green Film Festival

Established in 2013, the Barichara Green Film Festival aims to reward and consolidate the Colombian film sector in categories such as:

  • National feature film
  • International feature film
  • National short film
  • International short film
  • National and international animation.

Another objective is to highlight the importance of caring for the planet to preserve ecosystems, species, and biodiversity. Various locations, such as halls, schools, and churches, serve as makeshift cinemas.

Location: Parochial hall and the Foundation School Workshop of Barichara, Barichara.

Date: September 21 to 24, 2023. The date for the following year is to be confirmed, usually taking place in September.

Open to the Public: No, but there are various talks and workshops open to the public. Likewise, you can watch the festival’s broadcast.

Award: Stone statuette with a carving of the festival’s symbol, a prehistoric drawing or ideogram from the Guané indigenous culture depicting a lizard with its head as an eye. It is used to pay tribute to our ancestors and encourages filmmakers to use this art to work for the environment.

Website: https://festiver.org/

International Independent Film Festival of Villa de Leyva

The International Independent Film Festival of Villa de Leyva takes place in the beautiful colonial city of Villa de Leyva in Boyacá. It focuses on showcasing independent films from around the world and has gained worldwide recognition over the years as a significant event for promoting independent cinema in Latin America.

The festival presents a wide range of films, approximately 150 hours, including feature films, short films, and documentaries. This attracts filmmakers, directors, actors, and film enthusiasts from different parts of the world. In addition to film screenings, the festival offers activities such as panel discussions, workshops, and conferences.

Location: Main park of Villa de Leyva.

Date: November 10 to 13, 2023.

Open to the Public: Yes, as it is not an awards ceremony.

Website: https://www.festivaldecinevilladeleyva.com/

Short Film Festival of Popayán

The Short Film Festival of Popayán is an annual event held in Popayán, Cauca, a colonial city with a rich historical and cultural legacy. It is dedicated to the promotion and exhibition of films, especially those focusing on independent cinema and film production in Latin America. Workshops and talks are also provided.

This event is ideal for emerging filmmakers as it provides development opportunities for participants in Colombian independent cinema.

Location: Municipal Theater Guillermo Valencia, Popayán.

Date: October 9 to 13, 2023. The date for the following year is to be confirmed, usually taking place in October.

Open to the Public: Yes, as it is not an awards ceremony.

International Film Festival of Cali

The International Film Festival of Cali is a significant event in the Colombian cinematic scene. Held in Cali, the capital of Valle del Cauca, its primary focus is to create visibility in the international film field and showcase national and international films, especially those belonging to the realm of independent and auteur cinema in Colombia.

The motto of this event is “cinema that transforms.” The festival also hosts research seminars, workshops, discussions, and script labs.

Location: Municipal Theater Enrique Buenaventura, Cali.

Date: November 31 to 6, 2023.

Open to the Public: Yes, as it is not an awards ceremony.

Website: https://festivalfincali.com/

Recommendation of Colombian Films You Must Watch

Colombian cinema offers a fascinating window into its culture, where standout films reflect the profound influence of its indigenous roots and, unfortunately, the common backdrop of violence that has affected the country. These films not only entertain but also provide a deep and moving perspective on life in Colombia.

Watching how the main characters live and develop in our complex social and political context is memorable. Likewise, there are various outstanding Colombian comedy films. Here are 7 Colombian films you shouldn’t miss:

El Abrazo de la Serpiente (2015)

Director: Ciro Guerra

Platform: Prime Video

This film, set in the Amazon rainforest, tells two intertwined stories of explorers seeking the healing plant yakruna. It is acclaimed for its stunning black and white cinematography and the excellent portrayal of indigenous culture.

Awards and Nominations:

  • Oscars 2016: Nomination for Best Foreign Language Film.
  • Cannes Film Festival 2015: Winner of the Art Cinema Award.
  • Munich Film Festival 2015: Winner for Best International Film.

La Estrategia del Caracol (1993)

Director: Sergio Cabrera

Platform: Claro Video

This comedy focuses on the tenants of a building who unite to prevent eviction by an ambitious landlord. The film is known for its great wit, clear social criticism, and relaxed storytelling style.

Awards and Nominations:

  • International Festival of New Latin American Cinema 1993: Winner for Best Music.
  • Ibero-American Film Festival of Huelva 1993: Winner for Best Film.
  • Goya Awards 1995: Nomination for Best Foreign Language Film (Spanish-speaking).

These films offer a captivating glimpse into Colombian culture, showcasing its diversity, challenges, and unique perspectives. Enjoy the rich storytelling and cinematic artistry that Colombian filmmakers bring to the screen.

Los Colores de la Montaña (2011)

Director: Carlos Arbeláez.

Platform: Prime Video.

This film tells the story of Manuel, a boy who dreams of becoming a goalkeeper, and his ball falls into a minefield. So, he and his friends embark on an adventure to rescue it.

Awards and Nominations:

  • San Sebastián Film Festival 2010: Winner for Best New Director.
  • Cartagena International Film Festival 2011: Winner of the Audience Award.
  • Viña del Mar Film Festival 2011: Winner for Best Film.

Cóndores no entierran todos los días (1984)

Director: Francisco Norden.

Platform: RTVCPlay.

This incredible film, is based on the novel of the same name that describes the violent events of the civil war between the two political parties, Liberal and Conservative, known as the Thousand Days’ War, which took place from October 17, 1899, to November 21, 1902. The story revolves around the main character, León María Lozano, a Conservative militant and hitman, known as “birds” at that time, and he was “the condor,” the most notorious bird of all.

El Árbol Rojo (2021)

Director: Joan Gómez.

Platform: RTVCPlay.

This film is about Eliécer, a man who must search for his half-sister, Esperanza, and only learned of her existence moments before his father’s death. His mission is to take her to the city to find the girl’s mother, who abandoned her as a baby.

Awards and Nominations:

  • Africa, Asia and Latin America Film Festival: Winner of the City of Milan Award.

Los Reyes del Mundo (2022)

Director: Laura Mora Ortega.

Platform: Netflix Colombia.

This film tells the story of 5 boys living in vulnerable situations who undertake a painful and wild journey in search of an inheritance. With a bitter and realistic ending, this film teaches us about the reality of displacement and indifference in Colombia.

Awards and Nominations:

  • Macondo Awards 2023: Winner for Best Film.
  • San Sebastián International Film Festival 2022: Winner of the Golden Shell for Best Film.

La Vendedora de Rosas (1998)

Director: Víctor Gaviria.

Platform: RTVCPlay.

This film aims to portray the life of street children in Medellín and tells the story of Mónica, a young girl struggling to escape a life of crime and poverty. The film stands out for its realism and raw storytelling style.

Awards and Nominations:

  • Cannes Film Festival 1998: Nominated for the Palme d’Or.
  • Ariel Awards 2000: Nominated for Best Ibero-American Film.
  • Bratislava International Film Festival 1999: Nomination for Lady Tabares for Best Actress.

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About Author

Frank

Frank

Hello! I'm Frank Spitzer, the founder and the heart behind Pelecanus, a specialized tour operator for Colombia travel. My journey in travel is vast and rich – I've explored over 60 countries, absorbing cultures, experiences, and stories along the way. Since 2017, I've been channeling this wealth of global experience into creating unforgettable travel experiences in Colombia.I'm recognized as a leading authority in Colombian tourism, with a deep-seated passion for sharing this beautiful country with the world. You can catch glimpses of my travel adventures and insights around Colombia on my YouTube channel. I'm also active on social media platforms like TikTok, Facebook, Instagram, and Pinterest, where I share the vibrant culture and stunning landscapes of Colombia.For professional networking, feel free to connect with me on LinkedIn. Join me on this incredible journey, and let's explore the wonders of Colombia together!

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