A journey deep into the heart of uprooting and the dark side of progress
Director: Juan Mejia, Colombia.Duration: 90 min.
“- Because these lands have come at a great cost. It has taken us sweat and blood to ensure them... And I don’t want for capitalism, for the landowners, for outsiders to simply come in now and take them over”
- Goyo (campesino from the Rio Mira, Tumaco, Colombia).
The Battle for Land” is born out of a commitment to grapple with the realities of a country stained by inequality and injustice. Through a hybrid (documentary-animation), rich visual style, this film constructs complex human portraits and stresses the importance of memory. It aims to create a space to wrestle with the tensions and contradictions of an intricate and often-disturbing actuality by allowing the characters themselves to tell their own stories. “The Battle for Land” is above all a journey deep into the heart of uprooting and the dark side of progress.
About this Project
I bet that very few of you know that Colombia ranks alongside Sudan as the worst internal refugee crisis in the world. Since 1990, over four million people have been forcefully displaced from their lands. Black Colombians, making up roughly 15%-20% of the population, represent over 30% of the displaced. Today, as the war in Colombia escalates, armed militias clash over the territory and valuable resources of the Pacific region, where the majority of the Afro-colombian population resides. This situation has led some important activists to affirm that if displacement rates continue, Black communities could soon disappear as a distinguishable, cohesive ethnic group from the Pacific Coast of Colombia.
We cannot stress enough the urgency of this situation. This film addressed our belief that until the real causes for displacement are known, understood and discussed openly, there won’t be an end to this tragedy and its devastating consequences.
Filmed throughout the Colombian Pacific and the capital city of Bogotá, The Battle for Land begins digging deep into what uprooting has meant for Black communities. Displacement tears apart the social fabric woven over centuries of habitation along the estuaries of the Pacific region, and equally important, is followed by ghettoization, discrimination and continued violence and persecution.
We have structured the film around detailed portraits of the characters in the film. As we journey with these characters, their stories cast doubt on prevailing ideas in which displacement is seen as an aberration--a sad outcome of the civil war--and progressively reveal a much more intricate picture; one that gradually exposes the hidden roots of displacement, where development models and transnational interests collide with local visions and ancestral traditions… What you might run into, you ask?
Lets just say that the economic model that the state is pushing for the Pacific, and the whole country as a whole for that matter, sees the Pacific Coast of Colombia as a perfect place for the cultivation of large oil palm plantations… palm-oil for bio-fuels.
So, if you have trouble understanding how this story relates to you or how it is an issue of global scale, think of this: The world is already in the midst of an energy crisis, and developed countries are struggling for ways to secure new sources of energy. It seems that at this juncture it has been decided that countries in the southern hemisphere (through the mass cultivation of bio crops like sugar-cane, oil-palm, rice, etc.) have been called to resolve the energy crisis for the northern hemisphere. “The Battle for Land” will help spark a much needed debate on how this energy will be produced and at what cost.
A Little Background
Colombia has been in civil war between leftist guerrillas and the State since the 1960s. Violence escalated in the 1980s due to the rise of right-wing paramilitary groups and increased U.S. military aid. Peace talks collapsed in the late 1990s and violence between the current guerrilla groups, (FARC and the ELN), paramilitary forces (until recently operating under the AUC), and government forces has engulfed many rural areas of Colombia.
Although Black communities have inhabited the Pacific Coast of Colombia for centuries, it wasn’t until 1993 that they were granted communal titles to their land. According to Black organizations, it is no coincidence that as these communities began the titling process, violence enveloped the region and mass displacement begun. As a result, today over 70% of those granted titles are no longer in their territories.
The Path Traveled
Although we began production in 2008, it was after over 5 years of research and collaboration with two important Afro-Colombian organizations: The Association for Displaced Afro-Colombians (AFRODES) and The Process of Black Communities (PCN). This work granted us the trust necessary to achieve the rare degree of intimacy and openness with people who have lived through the most horrific acts of violence, that made the film possible. We completed the main photography in 2010 and have been working in postproduction since. It has been a long and trying journey to this point. We have invested a lot of time and resources on this film, and have also received valuable help. The Battle of Land received an important grant from the Fund for the Advancement of Cinema - Ministry of Culture of Colombia in 2009, and this year it was awarded the Latin America Media Arts Fund post-production grant from the Tribeca Film Institute. With the help of a second editor on board, we are currently finishing the first cut of the film and are very excited with the outcome. We hope to premiere the film in December, but the reality is that we still have a long way to go. Post-production is a long and expensive process… so… here is where YOU come in!
Luis Efren Animation Still
How can you help? … What is the money for?
More $112,000 USD have been raised so far, coming mainly from grants (Including Tribeca Film Institute and the Cinema Development Fund from the Ministry of Culture in Colombia) in kind donations and personal investments (including ours, of course). These funds allowed us to take the film as far as it is right now – to its post-production stage. We are really close to bringing The Battle for Land to the screen, but to do so we still need to raise $10,000 USD for the final post-production stage. This includes sound design and sound mix, color correction, and scoring and original music. Of the $10,000, $6,000 will be spent on the reminder of the post-production tasks, the remaining $4,000 will be used to kickstart our outreach and distribution plan, and get The Battle For Land out there!
We plan to launch an ambitious outreach and distribution plan that aims to move the film beyond festivals and into people’s homes and classrooms. For this we intend to develop a set of academic materials to accompany the film, as well as hosting private screenings with private donors, and the non-profit sector.
You can also get in touch with us if you are interested in hosting a screening, just write us to: firstname.lastname@example.org
Please help us spread the word out about "The Battle for Land " by posting us on your social media accounts -- blogs, Facebook, Twitter, and others.
You can visit our Production websites:
Or the film’s site:
More info on the work of AFRODES and PCN here:
This is an urgent film and we know it can have an impact. Thank you for your time and support!
- (35 days)