History of Colombian cinema

The history of Colombian cinema lists, studies and interprets all events related to this performing arts in Colombia. In the course of its history, Colombian cinema was not considered a profitable industry, which hindered the continuity of its production. During the first decades of the xx th  century , some companies have tried to feed a constant level of production; but lack of economic support and strong foreign competition have shattered initiatives. Thanks to the creation of the Compañía de Fomento Cinematográfico (FOCINE), some productions have been realized. However, this company was liquidated in the early 1990s. Currently, thanks to the film law approved in 2003, initiatives are reviving around the cinematographic activity, which allows a revival of Colombian cinema, both nationally and internationally.

First works

The history of Colombian cinema began on , two years after the invention of cinematography by Auguste and Louis Lumière in Paris . Indeed, this is the date when the first cinematograph arrived in the country by the port of Colón , thanks to Gabriel Veyre 1 , 2 who had left the port of Le Havre onto America 2 .

A Colombian film historian , Luis Alfredo Álvarez, says that Colombian cinematographic activity began in 1897 with the arrival of Thomas Edison A 1’s vitascope . Thus, on August 21 of this year, at the Peralta theater of Bucaramanga, Manuel Trujillo Durán presents for the first time a vitascope on the current Colombian territory, which is well received by the local public. On August 22nd, the people of Cartagena de Indias discover a projection of moving images thanks to an Edison Vitascope 1 . The, The Municipal Theater of Bogota , Ernesto Vieco present for the first time the people of the capital a movie projection using a Vitascope 3 .

Shortly after the introduction of the cinema in Colombia, the country is plagued by a civil war known as the War of a Thousand Days (1899-1902), causing the suspension of all film productions during this period 2 . In 1905 , General Rafael Reyes Prieto , who is President of the Republic, hires a French cameraman to film the main official events in public life. At the time, film archives mainly represented official acts, solemn inaugurations and military journals B 1 .

At this time, the economic boom of Colombia promotes the development of cinema C 1 . Many films are imported and several cinemas are built, such as the Olympia of Bogotá inaugurated the4 . We find the Italian brothers Francesco and Vincenzo Di Domenico who import French and Italian films in Colombia. These same brothers created, in 1913, the Latin American film industrial society ( Spanish  :  sociedad industrial cinematográfica latinoamericana or SICLA) A 1 , 5 with the help of their brothers-in-law Giuseppe and Erminio Di Ruggiero as well as their cousins ​​Donato and Giovanni Di Doménico Mazzoli 5 . This initiative is, according to Luis Alfredo Álvarez, “the first organized attempt of a national cinema”. The Di Domenico also benefit from the assassination of General Rafael Uribe Uribe onto release, a year later, the documentary ”  El drama del 15 de octubre  “ (“The drama of October 15”). This film is scandalous because it shows the two assassins of General Uribe interviewed in their cell 6 . The avant-garde attempt of the Di Domenico brothers to attract the public with a sensitive topic has the effect of stopping the project of a regular production of films in the following years 7 . It is thus necessary to wait seven years for Alfredo del Diestro and Máximo Calvo Olmedo to realize, in 1922 , the first Colombian feature film, María , a film adaptation ofnovel by the same name by Jorge Isaacs 8 .

Silent Cinema

Related article: Silent cinema .

The era of silent film in Colombia is a golden era in the history of Colombian cinema since between 1921 and 1927 , a dozen feature films were shown on the big screen 9 . In the 1920s, several film companies appeared such as Casa Cinematográfica Colombia , Compaña Filmadora of Medellín , Casa Films , Colombia Films Company and Cine Colombia A 2 . Until 1922, film producers addressed topics such as nature or everyday life [ref. necessary] . WithMaría d ‘ Alfredo del Diestro and Máximo Calvo Olmedo in 1922, we are really entering the era of silent cinema. This film was based on the novel of the same name, María , by Jorge Isaacs who was a bestseller in Colombia since its publication in 1867 . There is no longer any copy of this film. Calvo has kept some photographs of the film in an album and the Fundación Patrimonio filmic Colombiano still has a fragment of 45 seconds of this movie that lasted hours three 10. This film also leads to the first copyright controversy in the Colombian film world, when the Isaacs family is waiting for a lawsuit against the movie’s producer, Valley Film 11 .

Another fiction film, ”  Aura o las violetas  “ (“Aura or violets”), was adapted from a literary work by José María Vargas Vila and staged by the brothers Di Domenico in 1924 A 2 . The short film , lasting 18 minutes and told the story of a conflicted marriage between a rich old man and a poor girl 12 .

Arturo Acevedo Vallarino , producer and director of a national theater company in Antioquia , was another pioneer of Colombian cinema. Indeed, after the introduction of foreign films in Colombia, theaters were no longer as profitable and Acevedo decided to create a production company, Acevedo e Hijos (“Acevedo and Sons”) in 1920 13 . This production company is the first to have a long fully realize Colombian film, La tragedia del silencio ( “The tragedy of silence”). Indeed, the first of this national cinema, El drama del 15 de octubre , is directed by the Italian brothers Francesco and Vincenzo Di Domenico. Then, for María, directed by the Spaniards Alfredo del Diestro and Máximo Calvo Olmedo while the role of Efraín’s mother is played by the Mexican actress Emma Roldán 14 . It is also the only Colombian film of the period of the silent film to have a soundtrack 14 , 15 , this one having been specially composed by Alberto Urdaneta Forero (1895-1954) to accompany the film during its projection 14 . It appears for the first time indoors onat the Faenza Theater in Bogotá, attracting a large audience. However, according to Gonzalo Acevedo Bernal, “the economic success was weak” 16 . Following the performance of La tragedia del silencio in Medellín , Acevedo e Hijos draws the attention of the industrialist Gonzalo Mejía. Thanks to financial support, the company makes a new movie in 1925 , Bajo el Cielo Antioqueño ( “Under the sky of Antioquia”) 16 .

The films in Colombia mainly addressed themes such as nature, folklore and nationalism, with some exceptions where the films were from literature. In 1926, the film Garras de oro , directed by PP Jambrina, was based on a political fact, namely the separation of Panama from Colombia in 1903 , while criticizing the role played by the United States during this event history 17 .

The film production was not focused only on Bogota . Thanks to a desire for decentralization, several films were shot in other cities such as Cali , Medellín , Barranquilla , etc. Furthermore, in 1923,Colombia Film Company was founded in Cali to produce films that demanded more technical requirements. She notably produced two feature films by Camilo Cantinazzi: ”  Suerte y azar  “ (“Chance and Chance”) in 1925 and ”  Tuya es la culpa  “ (“It’s your fault”) in 1926 .

The film ”  Alma provinciana  “ (“Provincial Soul”), made in 1925 by Félix Joaquín Rodríguez, is considered to be one of the best films of the Colombian silent cinema on a technical level. Indeed, the director, who had emigrated to the United States from 1915 to 1919 and attended the middle of Hollywood , returned to Colombia after learning the technical basics of shooting, development and assembly 18 .

The main feature films of the silent film era in Colombia have been lost and flammable copies can no longer be viewed. For some of these films, there are also some B 2 photographs .

The beginnings of sound cinema

Related article: Sound cinema .

The crisis of the 1930s

Vers 1928, avec l’arrivée du cinéma sonore, c’est la fin de l’âge d’or de la production cinématographique colombienne qui connaît des difficultés. Le cinéma muet ne peut opposer de réelle résistance face à cette nouvelle technologie plus onéreuse et compliquée à faire. Les films locaux ont été incapables de rivaliser avec les films hollywoodiens offrant une meilleure qualité. À cela s’ajoute la compétitivité des films argentins et mexicains. Ainsi, les frères Di Domenico, qui considéraient le cinéma sonore comme un obstacle infranchissable, vendirent leur stock de films étrangers ainsi que leur matériel cinématographique. En revanche, les frères Acevedo ont continué à projeter régulièrement leurs « Actualités colombiennes » qui traitaient d’évènements officiels, sportifs et sociaux19, et ce jusqu’en 1948[réf. nécessaire]. Par ailleurs, avec l’arrivée sur le marché le  de la compagnie Cine Colombia20qui diffuse notamment des films importésA 2, les autres entreprises cinématographiques cessent peu à peu leurs activités, à l’exception de Acevedo e hijosA 2. Ces deux sociétés s’associent entre 1929 et 1932 pour réaliser le Noticiero Cineco (les actualités Cineco)A 2 qui relate la vie quotidienne de certains secteurs de l’aristocratie nationale, les célébrations sportives, les courses de taureaux, le théâtre, la danse, des processions, les combats de boxe et les carnavals estudiantins20.

In 1931 , the technical research on sound cinema, made by Carlos Schroeder, who is of German origin and César Estévez, gave birth to a new and improved apparatus: the Cine Voz Colombia . This invention was able to adapt to any silent movie projector and allow sound reproduction from discs 21 .

The first productions

Produced by Acevedo e Hijos and Carlos Schroeder, the first Colombian soundtrack was ”  Los Primeros ensayos del cine parlante nacional  “ . When it was released in theatersIt lasted 25 minutes and only 9 minutes have been preserved 22 .

The first feature film Al son de las guitarras (“Sound of guitars”) was produced in 1938 by Alberto Santana and supervised by Carlos Schroeder.

During the Second World War , the importation of European films to Colombia ceases, leaving room for North American and Mexican films C 2 . From the perspective of protectionism , the Colombian State established by law o  9 of 1942 promoting the film industry 23 , C 2 . In this film protection law, it is stipulated that the national character is necessary for any film company in order to benefit from the exemption from customs duties on the importation of certain products necessary for their activity C 2 . The government of Alfonso López Pumarejoalso proposes to exempt tax production companies and theaters that would diffuse national short films in 35mm , sound and talking in full, the enforcement is effective through Decree o  1309 from 1944 C 3 .

Between 1941 and 1945 , ten Colombian feature films were made by four companies:

  • the production company Calvo Film, founded in 1941 by Máximo Calvo, directed the production of Flores del valle (“Flowers of the Valley”) in 1941 and Castigo del Fanfarrón in 1944;
  • in 1942 , Oswaldo Duperly and the brothers Leopoldo and Georges Crane Uribe founded the company Ducrane Films, the name of the company being derived from the association of their surnames. They made various films such as Allá in the trapiche (“There in the press”) of Roberto Saa Silva and Gabriel Martínez in 1943 , Golpe de gracia (“Coup de grace”) by Hans Brückner and Oswaldo Duperly in 1944 , Sendero de Luz (“Path of Light”) by Emilio Alvárez Correa in 1945;
  • in 1943, some actors, having separated from the Ducrane Films, founded the Patria Films company directed by Alfonso Gaitán, Gabriel Martinez, Humberto Onetto and Lily Alvárez. They produced Antonia Santos and Bambucos y Corazones in 1944, as well as El sereno de Bogotá (“The night watchman of Bogotá”) in 1945;
  • in 1944, Cofilma was founded by the capitalists of Antioquia and allowed the production of Anarkos in 1944 and La canción de mi tierra (“The song of my land”) in 1945.

Founded during the Second World War, these four companies ceased their activities in 1946 .

Antonia Santos , also entitled Horizontes de gloria , was the first Colombian film addressing the theme of the independence struggle 24 . Produced in 1944 by Miguel Joseph y Mayol and Gabriel Martínez, it tells the last years of the life of Antonia Santos struggling against the Spanish yoke. The Fundación Patrimonio filmic Colombiano still has a fragment of 45 seconds of the film, which lasted sixty minutes 25 .

Second half of the xx th  century: a cinema that seeks

1950s and 1960s: a transition period

During this period, new companies were created but had a short life. Among them, Caribe Sonofilms (1951-1953), Procinal ( 1947 – 1955 ) with the production of the film Colombia Linda (“Beautiful Colombia”) in 1955 , etc.

In the 1950s, Gabriel García Márquez and Enrique Grau tried to revive the film industry. They realized in 1954 , with the help of the writer Álvaro Cepeda Samudio and the photographer Nereo López , the surreal short film ”  La langosta azul  “ (“The blue lobster”) 26 . The most important film of the 1950s was certainly ”  El milagro de la sal  “ (“The miracle of salt”), made in Zipaquirá , near Bogotá, by the Mexican director Luis Moya Sarmiento in 1958 . We could also quote”  La gran obsession  “ ( “The Great Obsession”) Guillermo Ribón Alba, produced in 1955 .

The company Acevedo e Hijos ceased its cinematic activities in the mid-1950s, their images being bought in 1964 by the public relations and advertising department of the company Intercol before being recovered in the 1980s by the Fundación Patrimonio Fílmico Colombiano A 3 .

In the 1960s, there were more films made than in previous decades. However, they were not regarded as a period of recovery of the Colombian national cinema, many filmmakers beginning their careers after completing their studies in this area 27 . In this decade, which saw the emergence of numerous documentary short films, three feature films managed to achieve commercial success: Julio Luzardo’s Tres cuentos colombianos (1962), which attracts more than 40,000 Colombian spectators, An Angel of the Calle (1966) from Zacarías Gómez Urquiza and Aquileo venganza (1968) by Ciro Durán 27. If El Río de las Tumbas (1964), “consciously political”, according to the words of its director Julio Luzardo, is not very popular at the time of its release, it is considered thirty years later “as one of the most authentic among the amount of those made at this time ” , becoming very popular in film clubs 28 .

1970s: pornography

In 1971 , new legislation tries to regulate short and feature films. This is the decree o  1309, supplemented by the resolution o  315 of los precios Superintendencia , which encouraged the production of Colombian films in allocating percentages between the producer, the distributor and the operator. This decree resulted in a strong development of short films. The same year, in Cali, the film production company Cine Colombia opened the first multiplex cinema in Colombia 29 .

The Junta Asesora de Calidad ( Quality Advisory Board) was created in 1974 and is part of the cinematographic section of the Ministry of Communications. Its objective was to curb the production of “bad” shorts by rejecting them or depriving them of aid for launching 30 , which led to a significant decline in film production.

In the 1970s , in Colombia and other neighboring countries such as Brazil and Venezuela , we witness the birth of pornography ( Spanish  :  pornomiseria ) where some film productions decide to turn to poverty and human misery, in order to earn money and have international [non-neutral] recognition . Many topics such as the misery of the people, the lives of the marginalized, street children, drug trafficking activities, indifference and political corruption are addressed in this new style of cinema 31 . One of the films that has all the characteristics of this genre has beenGamin (“Clochard”), a documentary by Ciro Durán in co-production with the French National Audiovisual Institute , published in 1978 , about street children in Bogota , who broke their family ties to live on begging and prostitution.

Carlos Mayolo and Luis Ospina realize in 1978 the short film Agarrando pueblo  (es) 32 . It combines satire and denunciation to strongly criticize the use of extreme poverty for purposes mercantilist 33 . On the occasion of the release of this film, which won several national and international awards 32 , the two filmmakers write the manifesto pornomisère 34 . They write in particular that”Independent Colombian cinema has two origins. A first aimed at interpreting or analyzing reality and a second that discovered, even within this reality, anthropological and cultural elements in order to transform it. In the early 1970s, with the law of support for the cinema, a certain type of documentary appeared, which superficially copied the achievements and the methods of the independent cinemas until the denaturing. Thus, misery has become a shocking theme, a commodity easy to sell, especially abroad, where misery is the counterpart to the opulence of consumers. If poverty had served as an element of denunciation and analysis for independent cinemas, the lure of profit did not offer a method to discover new premises for analyzing poverty. On the contrary, this new independent and miserabilist cinema has created demagogic schemes to become a genre that could be called porn-misery.35 .

Critics of pornomiseria felt that this trend did not address social problems in depth and was too simplistic because there was no real research on the ground.


The Compañía de Fomento Cinematográfico (FOCINE) was founded onin Colombia, through Decree 1244, during the presidential term of Alfonso López Michelsen . Its mission was to administer a “special fund exclusively to finance the film industry” defined by the decree o  950 1976 36 . FOCINE was a state institution under the Ministry of Communications of Colombia, which has allowed the realization of twenty-nine feature films and numerous documentaries and short films 37 .

However, corruption within FOCINE led the institution to file for bankruptcy in 1993 37 , following Decree 2125 of 29 December 1992 38 . This decision led to a decrease in the production of films in Colombia 39 .

The post-FOCINE

The end of FOCINE has not prevented filmmakers to produce without government assistance thereafter 39 . This is the case, for example, of La Petite Marchande de Roses which was produced thanks to the work and resources of the director Erwin Gögel under the direction of Víctor Gaviria in 1998 39 . This film, however, remained sixteen weeks in theaters in Colombia, calling the Colombian public, does not allow producers to reach breakeven, the generated revenues are insufficient 40 .

During the last decade of the xx th  century, after the loss of state support during the liquidation FOCINE, filmmakers in the country based their hopes on co-productions with European countries. They managed to make some remarkable films such as the productions of the director Sergio Cabrera , including the film The estrategia del caracol (”  The Strategy of the snail  “) in 1993 which has won many international awards 41 and caused great interest from Colombian public.

Pa addition, after the disappearance of FOCINE in 1993, law o  397 1997 42 – or “General Law of Culture” – gave birth to the Ministry of Culture . As a result, discussions led to the creation of a road map aimed at developing a Colombian cinema so that it “preserves the purity of the national DNA” 43 . This law also allowed the creation of the Mixed Fund of Cinematographic Promotion ( Fondo Mixto of Promoción Cinematográfica ) Proimágenes en Movimiento . This is a corporation private nonprofitwhich seeks to consolidate and strengthen the Colombian film industry, through public and private participation 40 and becoming a key actor in public policy consultations and sector 44 . Public participation is through the Ministries of Culture , Education and Communications , the National University , the National Tax Directorate and the Central Mortgage Bank. As for private participation, it is carried out by the American company Kodak , the Colombian film heritage foundation and the Colombian association of film distributors 45 .

Beginning of the xxi th  century to a dynamic cinema?

A few years later, the law o  814 2003 46 , better known as the “Film Law” is introduced. It supports cinematographic activity in Colombia 47 , through the introduction of a tax of 8.5% on the net income of distributors and exhibitors generated by the distribution and distribution of foreign films. In addition, the operators benefit from a reduction of 6.5% if it is the projection of a Colombian short film certified by the Ministry of Culture. In addition, this law includes a levy of 5% on the revenues of Colombian film producers in order to supply a support fund (Fund for Film Development, FDC) managed by theConsejo Nacional de las Artes y la Cultura en Cinematografía (National Council of Arts and Culture in Cinematography, CNACC 48 ). This tax is intended to support directors of feature films, short films or documentaries, as well as training projects. Finally, although investors can recover almost 50% of their investments through tax deductions, it turns out that producers are excluded from this aid system, being able to obtain resources only if they obtain a price. awarded by a jury for their film 43 .

Subsequently, Law o  1556, 2012, also called “law shooting Colombia  ” 49 is implemented to place Colombia as a scene to shoot and produce films attracting foreign producers who commit Colombian services companies cinematographically at the artistic and technical level 50 , 51 . Thus, for films falling within the criteria of this law, 40% of pre-production, filming and post-production costs are borne by Fondo Fílmico Colombia, which is attached to the Ministry of Commerce, Industry and Tourismand the government covers 20% of hotel, food and transport expenses 51 , 52 .

We are witnessing international success in the 2010s , with feature films by Cali directors such as César Augusto Acevedo’s La Terre et l’Ombre , awarded at the 2015 Cannes Film Festival by the Caméra d’Or , or the Barra of Oscar Ruiz Navia , FIPRESCI Award at the International film Festival of Berlin , which director also claims to be able to create, excluding institutional circuit, the low-budget films 53 .

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