Bogota film sheds light on street vendors

“Traffic Light Society,” a Colombian film premiering Friday, delves into the daily life of street vendors in the capital city Bogota.

“La sociedad del semaforo”, or “Traffic Light Society,” was produced in Bogota and directed by Ruben Mendoza. The film seeks to shed light on the lives of people who struggle to survive on the streets of the Colombian city. The plot centers on protagonist Raul Trellez, a street worker from the Choco department, who dreams of a day when all traffic lights will stand still on red allowing vendors more than 30 seconds to close a sale.

People selling gum or water, children juggling knives, silent mimes, women selling coffee, rappers, street poets, flower sellers, and windshield washers are only a few of the characters brought to life in Mendoza’s film, and a common sight on the streets of Colombia’s cities. The cast makes use of local talent and people who have themselves worked on the streets.

The movie is a dark satire highlighting the plight of these often invisible people. “The Traffic Light Society” harshly criticizes society’s treatment of these outsiders, including police abuse of street workers and the conditions of child street workers.

“The Traffic Light Society” demonstrates how lonely and desolate life on the streets can be. Red lights force people to pause for a moment and, as the protagonist of the film points out, people are unresponsive, like statues, when approached by street vendors.

The film has received critical acclaim abroad, winning awards at the Berlin Film Festival and participating in the Cannes Film Festival.

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