During decades the Colombian film landscape has been shot through by what’s mistakingly been called an internal conflict when the reality is of an ongoing war whose violence has ripped through the whole social fabric.
Films and shows have time and again addressed the ongoing violence. Yet it’s rare to find titles that are stories told from point of view of gender minorities, and even more so on regional TV.
This is the case of David David’s “Colorful Life,” a six-episode mini series that follows the daily life of a young non-binary artist called Yerit, who juggles work, study and his passion for dance in Valledupar, a Caribbean city with a brimming culture yet still entrenched in a deep conservatism. Yerit’s life will be turned upside down when his roommate, Alma, a trans woman who took him into her house and cared for him when he was most in need, is attacked and barely left alive.
Produced by Garabato Cine, the show airs on Canal Caribe, a regional TV. It has just had its European premiere at France’s Series Mania, where it plays in International Panorama. Variety interviewed David in the build up to the festival.
In a country where sexual diversity is still very much a contentious issue, your series comes across as a bold story that gives voice to an often unheard population.
My best way to try to understand what occurs around me is through films, I would like a less expensive way of therapy with what is going on but it truly is therapy. Through storytelling I can make out a larger sense to the current situation. Nothing is black and white and the grey is vast and complex. Having dealt with indigenous minorities in my previous film – “Frontier,” the seed of the show grew when I learnt about the death of an Afro trans woman who died from COVID-19 after being refused medical attention for being an Afro, transexual woman who worked as prostitute and apparently had HIV.
It pains me to my bones me to imagine the desolation in which this woman died. Through the series I try to better comprehend this sort of situation which is in stark contrast to the society of Valledupar, a region marked by a notable sexism, the land of the Vallenato, whisky and the image of the unbreakable macho man.
Music is a key character in the series, not only scoring the emotional moments of the story but constructing a cultural space where the characters live. What was your approach when developing and selecting the music?
Yerit experiences a catharsis through music and dance. It is a way to unload his heavy weight, to not be depressed nor resent a world that oppresses him. Yerit’s necessity gave music a key role in the story but also the fact that Valledupar is renowned as the birth place of a music genre – Vallenato –which is deeply felt. Like Nashville in the U.S. with its built-in iconography that gives its inhabitants pride. We haven’t learn to explore our own sounds, and Colombia is an immensely rich country in terms of music. I felt the series could bring out that strong connection to our roots.
Without generalizing there has historically been a a centralization of Colombia’s filmmaking which brings out more the stories of larger cities, and way fewer from other regions. Coming from Valledupar what is your view on this depiction of the country?
I’d add to that analysis that our film has not only centralized but mono-thematic. It often falls onto readings of the war our country has been in of again black and whites, of a rural war that happens far away, as if it would affect just rural inhabitants. There’s also a reinforcement of internal archetypes growing around us and is why we are deemed narcos and drug mules in the rest of the world. I worked very consciously trying to change that collective imaginary. Although I know that one swallow doesn’t make a summer :I wanted to brings stories that tell and explore other ways of being a Colombian, focusing mostly on an absolute daily basis.
In the first seven minutes of the show, you very playfully introduce the protagonist through an explorative montage of dance and musical expression rather than standard observation. Coming from film what was your approach when facing a series?
My work in the show has been immensely free yet I’ve been always very concerned about entertaining an audience. I talk about social subjects and the topics I address are not lightweight but I believe one must be able talk to an audience that wants to have a good time and to be entertained through film and TV. I admire Iranian cinema due to its capacity to tell gripping and compelling stories that explore complex characters where there is no simple good and evil. Here I was always faced with the episodic structure and how to end each episode with a proper narrative hook that not only asks what will happen next but also generates doubts and questions about the characters and their reality.