In a new legal setback for Colombian director Ciro Guerra, best known for his Oscar-nominated film “Embrace of the Serpent,” a Bogota court has denied the injunction that he filed against the journalists behind an explosive 2020 report detailing anonymous accounts of alleged sexual harassment and abuse.
In its statement, the court noted: “The journalists did not violate the rights of the petitioner, but instead presented a report of public and political interest, which reflects a specially protected discourse that is necessary to confront discrimination against women and gender-based violence.”
“These women brought to society the echoes of the voices of other women, insecure in the face of an institution that is still precarious to face harassment and abuse; and that, on many occasions, ends up generating additional damage to the victims,” it added.
“This ruling by the Constitutional Court vindicates the democratic value of feminist journalism as a form of denunciation in a justice system that is still inadequate,” said Matilde de los Milagros Londoño, co-founding editor of Latin American feminist journal Volcanicas along with Catalina Ruiz-Navarro.
She added: “It is a ruling that supports the testimonies and courage of the victims and the rigorous, ethical and responsible work of us journalists. It also defends freedom of the press, stating that the legal actions taken by Ciro Guerra against us have been disproportionate and censorious. It is a very important precedent for the feminist cause against sexual violence.”
In a statement sent to Variety, Guerra said: “What was important to me was that there was some sort of investigation and procedure, that authorities would look into this matter and decide if there had been any misconduct or wrongdoing on my part.”
“The sentence makes it clear that none of that was found and that there is no legal action, accusation, investigation or procedure against me. I have no intention or interest in censoring journalism, but I do believe that it is important to have some sort of accountability on these matters; it is not okay to affect livelihoods and careers based on misinformation, hearsay and gossip,” he added.
Volcanicas did not name the women alleging misconduct, but the publication notes that it conducted direct interviews with each accuser and viewed text message exchanges and recordings that detail the alleged harassment, as well as one instance of alleged assault. Obliged by the court to present further evidence and corroborate its report, Volanicas presented an updated version that includes a ninth testimony, one more than the original eight that first testified.
None of the women intend to press charges, the Volcanicas article said. Their goal was to call attention to “the normalization of sexual violence in Colombia’s audiovisual industry, which hinders the professional growth of women and affects them physically and emotionally,” wrote Ruiz-Navarro and De los Milagros. The article included a transcription of their call with Guerra where they asked him to respond to the charges, which he denied.
The court cited this call to Guerra where he was given an opportunity to comment on the damning report. “In this context,” it concluded: “The opinion of the journalists did not start from a vacuum but rather from an in-depth investigation and they, in any case, did not affirm that Ciro Alfonso Guerra had been convicted or is being investigated for any crime. Therefore, the court did not find elements to determine that the report had the purpose of harming the plaintiff (from the concept of real malice), but rather to contribute to the public debate.”
Guerra’s directing career has been in flux since the 2020 report. He is no longer represented by Paradigm since some two years ago. The Prime Video series, “Cortes and Moctezuma” starring Javier Bardem, that he was prepping fell through, coinciding with the advent of the COVID pandemic.
His company Ciudad Lunar Prods, which he runs along with his ex-wife Cristina Gallego, is one of the key producers behind Colombia’s entry to the Oscars, “The Kings of the World” by Laura Mora, which won a Golden Shell at last year’s San Sebastian Film Festival. “It was produced by Mirlanda Torres of La Selva Cine and Cristina of Ciudad Lunar, a company of which I’m partner. I’m currently in the middle of development of several projects,” Guerra told Variety.