Bajo Fuego (Under Fire)

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Hopes were high in November 2016 that the peace agreement drawn between the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia — People’s Army (FARC-EP) and President Juan Manuel Santos would put an end to the longest armed insurgency in the history of South America. With it came the assurance that a dubious “substitution program” (aka the avocado trees are in the mail) was in the works to put the kibosh on the country’s main source of income, cocaine production. (Why sell coffee when a family with a two-acre farm can live for a year off coca plants?) No sooner was the pact established, than the number of robberies swelled. The situation changed the following year when over 14,000 members of FARC-EP fled the territory. With the agitators out, this meant that the peasants could begin work on regaining control of their homeland. Regret set in the moment locals were hit with the hard realization that coke sales put food on their tables. A nostalgic air swept the region: the absence of guerillas reminded people of just how much the bad guys had their backs, particularly when it came to keeping both the military and criminals in line. It gets worse. One half-year later and the farmers have received but one of the monthly checks promised them. Strapped of their resources, the Peasant Guard had no choice but to strike, blocking the Pan-American highway that connects Colombia with Ecuador. It’s a war of sticks against guns and after four weeks of violent confrontation, El Presidente agrees to visit the region. His helicopter touches down just long enough to reverse its course. To his credit, two years after the program was supposed to commence, a handful of avocado trees arrived by jackass mail. If ever a documentary had the makings of a rousing narrative facelift it’s this. See it before Hollywood has a whack at it. Directed by Sjoerd van Grootheest and Irene Vélez-Torres. For more information visit The Human Rights Watch Film Festival: (2020) — Scott Marks

Rated NR | 1 hour, 25 minutes
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