A short documentary filmed with the Don José Bolívar Caicedo Guevara.
Armed conflict forces people to move, but what moves people on the inside?
Don José taught me a lot about what it means to be a strong person, and keepin’ it real in any case.
Not to mention a few salsa moves.
Enjoy, and then go dance!!!
From the Barrio San Cristóbal, in a white suit, Don José Bolívar is breaking down what you knew about history and human will, and he’s doing it on the dance floor.
A million factors seems to move our lives in different directions. In Colombia that factor is the armed conflict. Close to four million people have been moved from their homes.
Forced to flee to the city, the life of Don José changed. But with the weight of the world moving him in one direction, he found a way to move his life in another. Listening to the funny, tragic, and incredible life of Don José the question becomes, “What moves you…?”
It ends with a man running down the street with a machete and me eating an entire loaf of bread, so you don’t want to miss it.
May 30, 2013
So we arrive at today, the first day of filming with Don Jose, Bogota’s best Salsa dancer. He dances in the street by day, and studies law to help his fellow displaced find a voice by night. My filming partner is a tiny Colombian girl that always says thank you even when people are being mean. Let me set the scene. It is Bogota’s southern district, a makeshift part of town that has grown in numbers with people fleeing the violence of the country side. The houses are stacked bricks, unfinished, and every now and then a tin shack. There are children playing in the street, and people selling phone calls on cell phones attached to metal chains. The neighborhood was calm… I should have known it was the eye of the storm. Now Don Jose is a small man, skinny with a dope little afro. He might not have much money, but when he leaves the house he has polished white dancing shoes, white pants and a collared dark blue shirt… sharp, always. Don’t get me started on his dancing. He might be 50 but he dances like he is made of rubber… a smooth badass elegant kind of rubber that doesn’t actually exist. He is calm and caring. Now hanging out with two small, nice, calm people might not be your first choice for protection and safety in the ghetto , but you’d be surprised.
We filmed with Don Jose for 3 hours getting unreal tales and wisdom. I was in the doorway filming with the door open to let the light in, damn it was a good shot if I may say so. After talking for three hours straight, we never asked a single question, he finished the interview with “and that is what I need to say in this interview.”
At this moment I left the camera on the tripod walked to the couch to get the bag to wrap up the camera. THE NEXT THING I KNOW, Carolina is wrestling three guys for the camera. THREE guys, and this tiny girl isn’t taking shit from any of them. So they need to pull out a knife and tell her, “let it goes or it’s your life.” Now I have no idea where it came from but when they pulled out a knife Don Jose sprung into action and in two shakes he has a machete as big as him in his hand and starts running after the guys. At this point I figure as long as I am behind Jose everything is cool and we take off after them. They turn the corner and haul ass down the street and we follow.
Did I mention his war cry… he had a war cry I will never forget. The neighbors are now all at their windows hoping to see a tragedy. For some reason I only have one shoe but I am running faster than I knew I could. Don Jose is waving the machete in the air, as he rounds the corner with the same motion he sharpens the machete on the ground. I have never seen someone be able to run and sharpen a weapon at the same time… amazing. Down the street is the get away car. Two guys, guns drawn, are waiting in a getaway car down the street. They see their partners running from a guy with a machete. He is close on their heels, and they realize the crazy little black dude in shiny white shoes, dress pants and a machete is no joke, so they hop in the car and start the engine. Not to mention the lankiest white dude they’ve ever seen with only one shoe. As the thieves get to the car two guys split in the other direction. The third, the one carrying the camera, with no time to open the door, dives into the window of the now moving get away car. As the car sped away his legs were dangling in the air outside the window.
We continued to run just to feel like we were doing something, but soon realized we ran out of breath a long time ago. We filed the police report and the police man blamed us, not thinking it is more his fault considering it is his job to keep the neighborhood safe. He than asks Jose where he is originally from, Jose tells him the El Dorado, Cauca, and the police responds, “man a rough area, lots of Rebel fighters.” Jose responds, “no, in that area it is the paramilitaries.” The police man responds, they don’t exist anymore. And that is why we are making this documentary. These groups do still exist, and they are terrorizing farmers across the country, but the governments of the world don’t want to recognize it because they created these groups and then lost control of them, the effects are 4 million people displaced, and over 21,000 combat deaths in the last 10 years.
We took a cab back to Don Jose’s. The cab driver wouldn’t break a 20, my last 20, so I had to buy a whole loaf of bread to get change at the Panaderia. Back a Don Jose’s we sat demoralized. His wife felt bad and since I am the tallest person she has ever seen, she assumed I eat a lot which is why she served me the whole loaf of bread with eggs and coffee. Yeah, I ate it all. I hate to be rude.
Do I feel like shit? Damn straight, it wasn’t my camera, and I need to replace that. As for the filming I have put everything… everything! I have into this project, because it is important, because the people I am interviewing are great people, with stories we all need to hear. It might be easy to say I did my best and go to my comfortable bed in Denver and cry to my mom (who is great to cry to about stuff), but somehow I want to make this film more than ever. Yeah I’m broke, no I don’t have a camera. But I have something worth a lot more… an important story to tell, and the determination to tell it, and tell right!!!
That was a little reflection I wrote the night it all happened, it made me feel better to put on paper somehow. Thought I’d share.
What is not on paper is how the next day I went and got my camera back… But that is best told live over a few drinks… Needless to say I found a way to finish.