A documentary on a traditional Colombian mining town is set to compete in the upcoming 54th Annual Cartagena International Film Festival, one of Colombia’s premiere cultural events.
“Marmato,” which premiered last year at the prestigious Sundance Film Festival in Park City, Utah, aims to capture an intimate look at the mining town of the same name, situated in the mountainous western state of Caldas, following the arrival of a multinational Canadian mining company.
“It is not just another film about mining,” said director Mark Grieco, in an interview with Colombia Reports.
Indeed, Marmato’s story, in many ways, is representative of a broader trend in Colombia.
The town sits on roughly $20 billion worth of gold, explained Grieco, and has been progressively taken over in recent years by the Toronto-based Gran Colombia Gold company, whose plan for a massive open-pit mining project threatens to displace the town’s 8,000 inhabitants.
Run almost exclusively by multinational corporations such as Gran Colombia, large-scale mining has progressed at a dramatic rate in Colombia over the course of the past decade. “Maramato” focuses on the specific stories of the townspeople and their efforts to resist the change being wrought on their way of life. Their experience, however, is hardly unique.
The film’s narrative begins in 2006, when Grieco was traveling through the town in the midst of a landslide. In response, the municipal government evacuated the town, claiming it was too dangerous for residents to stay. The townspeople had a different version of events.
“They believed that the government wanted them off the mountain because there was a big mining company that had just arrived,” explained Greco.
Starting then, the Philadelphia-native photojournalist devoted six years of his life to the project, immercing himself in the culture and lives of the township.
At first, said Grieco, it was difficult to gain the trust of the residents, who questioned his intentions, and was even accused as serving as a spy for Gran Colombia.
The film did not begin to take shape until Grieco proved himself. “I had to really work to get beyond that initial friendly Colombian cultural thing, so what I did is I would go into the mines for the first two years of filming,” said the filmmaker, who shot singlehandedly shot the documentary. “I would put the camera down and pick up a shovel and work with them.”
Despite his own devotion to the project, Grieco emphasizes that his goal has always been to convey the reality of the townspeople. “The story is really about the lives of the people there much more than my personal experience. It’s about giving voice to those who are less heard,” he said.
Once the film had been shot, “Marmato” successfully raised more than $45,000 through Kickstarter to cover post-production costs, along with numerous grants from organizations such as the Sundance Institute, MacArthur Foundation, Cinereach and BritDoc.
The documentary will be showcased this Friday at the Cartagena International Film Festival, which runs from March 13 to 19 at various places in the coastal Colombian city.
- Interview with Marc Grieco