Colombia’s largest insurgent group collides with human nature in classically constructed, eye-opening docu “Guerrilla Girl,” about a young woman who enthusiastically joins a revolutionary group without knowing what the lifestyle holds in store. Among the strongest of the new nonfiction pics unveiled at SilverDocs, this calm, probing look behind the scenes of a hot-button Latin American issue will have instant appeal for fests, selected arthouse dates and tube and ancillary action.
Twenty-one-year-old middle-class urban co-ed Isabel decides to chuck it all for the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC), South America’s largest guerrilla movement. Before she can become a sanctioned fighter, a three-month training period awaits her in the country’s remote and ruggedly mountainous rainforest region.
“There’s a reason for everything we do,” a recruiter explains, responding to questions about FARC’s reputation for ruthless violence and drug-running connections. “It’s about starting a different life, where love will be expressed through the daily struggle.” In a prediction laden with foreshadowing, the recruiter says Isabel will be surrounded by an army of friends and comrades. She can barely hide her excitement as a female comrade helps fit her new camouflage outfit.
Ideology aside, the difficulties of this new life are quickly apparent. Isabel slips off rocks into streams while marching; is unable to slaughter a pregnant cow in the pouring rain; fidgets during lectures on U.S. government imperialism; giggles coquettishly during drill sessions; and fails to grasp such elementary disciplines as exercise and efficient hygiene.
Thus does pic mutate from a hard-hitting expose of guerrilla tactics to a quietly bizarre parallel universe of politically-charged reality TV: call it “Colombia’s Next Top Revolutionary.” Her superiors become worried, murmuring about correctives or sanctions. Things reach a nadir during a shampoo crisis, as Isabel vents to a comrade about the pilfering of her toiletries, concluding, “All this talk about collectivism is phony.”
Granted unfettered access he claims was denied to no less a filmmaker than Oliver Stone, helmer Frank Piasecki Poulsen eschews hand-held lensing in favor of the more traditional tripod. He is there as the dozen or so recruits are lectured on a rather chauvinistic approach to birth control following a dance party, and holds breathlessly on Isabel’s yearning goodbye to a male comrade after they’ve both completed their training.
Cumulative effect is to humanize these feared rebels, even as pic the suggests the best of Marxist intentions can be undercut by a shortage of sanitary napkins.
Tech credits are quietly pro, intensified by Povl Kristian’s mournful score. Pic’s producer is Karoline Leth, eldest daughter of vet Danish filmmaker Jorgen Leth, best known in North America for his recent collaboration with Lars Von Trier, “The Five Obstructions.”