Things That Matter

If You’re Tired Of Hollywood’s Portrayal Of Colombia, Here’s A Video Series You’ll Want To Watch

Listed as one of the best drama series by Business Insider, Netflix original “Narcos” stunned viewers with their first season which aired in August 2015. Some viewers described the show as electrifying, suspenseful, intense, mind-blowing and addicting – the same type of adjectives that are often used to describe other narco narratives. From Spanish-language novelas such as “La Reina del Sur,” “La Viuda Negra,” and “Dueños del Paraíso,” to Hollywood films such as “Clear and Present Danger,” “Collateral Damage,” and “Delta Force 2,” entertainment and the storyline of narcos go hand in hand. More often than not, these storylines are set in Colombia and the image of narcos is glorified, which is what you see in hip hop trio Migos’ music video, “Narcos.” All throughout the music video you see women in bathing suits and wealthy men holding guns, accompanied by song lyrics such as “trapping like the narco, got dope like Pablo,” “I just put a pack on the way to Bogota,” and “10 mil’ on a plane, going straight to Medellin.” However, despite the 290k likes this music video has reached on YouTube and despite the three seasons “Narcos” now has on Netflix, the success of this content doesn’t resonate well with Colombian natives.

In an essay written by Colombian native Bernardo Aparicio García, the writer speaks on the Netflix series “Narcos” and says, “I knew nothing about this new show, and that’s how I wanted to keep things. Critics had compared Narcos to Breaking Bad and Goodfellas, but what Colombian could view the story of Pablo Escobar as entertainment?”

Also in response to the show “Narcos,” Colombian native Felipe Torres Medina emphasizes in his essay, “Colombia doing well is great for Colombia, but bad for Hollywood. It’s just not a great story. No one wants to hear about biodiversity or the Peace Process that will end the longest armed conflict in the Americas, because that doesn’t fit the narrative they are selling to the United States.”

This narrative of Colombia that “doesn’t fit” in the world of entertainment is the exact narrative a campaign called Colombian Ambush is trying to push. In a four episode series, this campaign creatively tackles the stereotypes of Colombia that are often presented in film and television. Mitú spoke to a few of the talented folks who brought this campaign to life, including Creative Director Ciro Sarmiento, Director Simon Brand, and Executive Producer Marcos Cline.

While every video has a different storyline, they all work collectively to deliver the same message: “There’s a [deeper] background and history to this country.”

This collective message starts to build right away in the video “See the REAL target in their sights.”

The beginning of this video alludes to a very suspenseful and possibly dangerous scene, as is common in most narcos related film and television, then there’s an unexpected reveal: the beautiful Piranga Leucoptera.

“What we really wanted to use was that preconception of what Colombia is and what the American audience thinks of Colombia and use that content and atmosphere to let them think that this was another Colombian narco movie. And once they become engaged with the content, we ambush them with real facts about the country,” said the Colombian Ambush team.

This type of creative angle ties directly to the tagline of the campaign: Fighting the stereotype with the stereotype. “So in a way, we did use the stereotype image to fight against it because we knew that was the way to get American audiences compelled to watch the content,” the team explained.

This same angle is also applied to the video “What REAL Colombian women have to offer.”

This video begins with a scene of a Colombian woman dancing while preparing herself an alcoholic beverage. A man walks up behind her and wraps his arms around her, beginning to flirt and ask her for salsa dance lessons. Even though this introduction hints at the stereotype of Colombian women being hyper-sexualized and only being valued for their physical appearances, the storyline then takes you in a different direction. Instead of giving the man salsa dance lessons like he requests, she informs him about Diana Trujillo. Trujillo is a Colombiana and an aerospace engineer who led the NASA Mars Curiosity Rover mission.

Even though not everyone might know who Diana Trujillo is and why she is such an important figure, the goal of the Colombian Ambush team is to educate foreign audiences little by little. “This is not something that will happen in one day, so we believe that this is an effort that can help towards that final goal of cleaning the image that Colombia has outside. But it takes a lot of work and effort and consistency,” said the Colombian Ambush team.

In addition to the stereotype of Colombian women being over-sexualized, this campaign also tackles the stereotype of Colombian men being dangerous drug traffickers.

Two men in a vehicle driving late at night on a lonely road will conjure up narco-themed media. Suddenly, they are pulled over by police enforcement. The context of this scene gives you the impression that either the two men in the vehicle are up to something bad or the police officers who pull them over are on the brink of doing something bad. However, once the officer and the men in the vehicle begin to exchange dialogue, you discover that the driver and the passenger are on their way back from visiting the Gold Museum, located in Bogotá. Rather than this exchange between the officer and the men in the vehicle turning into a bloody drug brawl, they all have an intimate conversation about El Museo del Oro.

“It’s a fascinating piece of information presented in a disruptive way,” as Executive Producer Marcos Cline said. And it’s this surprise element that comes with each video that leads viewers to respond with comments such as: “Wow, I didn’t realize this particular aspect about Colombia.”

“That to me is the important thing, to establish a pattern in which we can focus on positive aspects and positive contributions that not just Colombia, but any country has to the world,” emphasized Cline.

The final video of this series presents you with another common stereotype of Colombian patróns.

As is the case in several narco narratives presented through film and television, there is one person who takes on the role of the patrón (the boss). In the Netflix series “Narcos” for example, the patrón is Pablo Escobar – a dangerous and intimidating man who is in power of the entire drug cartel and is feared by many.

These exact characteristics of the patrón are presented by the man in this short video who sits on the armchair, smoking a cigar. As this man is presented with a briefcase, an audience member who is only familiar with the Hollywood narco narrative might assume that there are drugs being carried in that briefcase. However, once this briefcase is opened, you see the titles of different books written by Gabriel García Márquez – a Colombian Nobel Laureate and an extremely influential writer.

The goal of tackling these stereotypes goes far beyond Colombia, the Colombian Ambush team agreed.

“I think that any country in the world can probably argue that their portrayal in the media or people’s beliefs of what they’re like are not really accurate,” Cline said. “And so I think one of the reasons why this campaign is so successful is not just the fact that it’s relatable, but also because it leaves those little bits and pieces of information that are unexpected and that are positive.”

Director Simon Brand points at a recent example that is evidence as to why this campaign is so significant to their team.

Colombian Ambush challenges foreign audiences to remove the stereotypical lens of this country. Instead, Colombian Ambush wants audiences to look at Colombia with a fresh set of eyes.

When asked to describe Colombia, Executive Producer Cline said, “It’s a dynamic, diverse, forward thinking country that has gone through the same culinary explosion that a few different countries have gone through. Similar to Mexico, where the conquest was not only military but religious, they have an incredibly long history deeply attached to European roots as well and you can notice that in some of the architecture. Aside from all of that, it’s one of these countries where people are happy.”

Along with this description, it’s important to keep in mind that Cline himself is not Colombian, yet he was able to illustrate this country with so many words besides drugs, narcos, cocaine, sexy women and beaches. If this campaign can get more people to describe Colombia in more detailed, intricate and diverse ways, then maybe the same goal can be reached for other countries.


READ: Two Latinx Women Are Tackling Major Issues In Their Community One Podcast At A Time

Don’t forget to comment and hit the share button below! 

Notice any needed corrections? Please email us at corrections@wearemitu.com

At Least 17 Dead And Hundreds Injured Following Massive Protests Across Colombia

Things That Matter

At Least 17 Dead And Hundreds Injured Following Massive Protests Across Colombia

A massive protest movement that swept across Colombia seems to have paid off – at least in the short term – as President Ivan Duque says that he will withdrawal the controversial tax plan that sent angry protesters into the streets. However, the protests claimed at least 17 victims who died during the unrest and hundreds more were injured.

Now that the president has withdrawn the controverial bill, many are wondering what’s next and will they have to take to the streets once again.

Massive protests claimed the lives of at least 17 people and hundreds more were injured across Colombia.

Unions and other groups kicked off marches on Wednesday to demand the government of President Ivan Duque withdraw a controversial tax plan that they say unfairly targets the most vulnerable Colombians.

Isolated vandalism, clashes between police and protesters and road blockades occurred in several cities on Saturday, and riot police were deployed in the capital.

Rights organization Human Rights Watch said it had received reports of possible police abuse in Cali, and local human rights groups alleged up to 17 deaths occurred.

After a week of protests, the government has shelved the controversial plan.

Faced with the unrest, the government of President Ivan Duque on Sunday ordered the proposal be withdrawn from Congress where it was being debated. In a televised statement, he said his government would work to produce new proposals and seek consensus with other parties and organizations.

President Duque, in his statement, acknowledged “it is a moment for the protection of the most vulnerable, an invitation to build and not to hate and destroy”.

“It is a moment for all of us to work together without paltriness,” he added. “A path of consensus, of clear perceptions. And it gives us the opportunity to say clearly that there will be no increase in VAT for goods and services.”

The tax reform had been heavily criticized for punishing the middle classes at a time of economic crisis brought on by the coronavirus pandemic. The government introduced the bill on April 15 as a means of financing public spending. The aim was to generate $6.3 billion between 2022 and 2031 to reignite the fourth largest economy in Latin America.

Notice any needed corrections? Please email us at corrections@wearemitu.com

Interview: Colombian Duo Cali y El Dandee Talk New Single “Despiértate”, Winning Grammy For Producer of the Year and More

Latidomusic

Interview: Colombian Duo Cali y El Dandee Talk New Single “Despiértate”, Winning Grammy For Producer of the Year and More

Fresh off their performance at the Latin American Music Awards, Colombian sibling pop duo Cali y El Dandee are back for more with their new single “Despiérate.”

In our exclusive interview with Latido Music by mitú, Cali, born Alejandro Rengifo, and Dandee, born Mauricio Rengifo, shared their excitement over their new collaboration, how they started working in music. Dandee aka Mauricio winning the Producer of the Year award at the Latin GRAMMYs, and more.

“Despiértate” is their new collab with Venezuelan sibling duo Mau y Ricky and Puerto Rican singer Guaynaa.

The collaboration had been something the brothers wanted to do for a very long time. The creative process for the song started with Cali y El Dandee and Mau y Ricky in the studio working on half of “Despiértate” and loving the sound so far. But they realized they were missing something.

“We loved the fresh sound of the song and how the synergy we achieved with them (Mau y Ricky) and then we invited Guaynaa, who gave it an Urban spin and the Puerto Rican touch the song needed,” added Dandee.

They started writing and producing music while they were in school.

Their very first “studio” was just a desktop computer and a microphone they had back home. Dandee was always interested in production, and as their music evolved they started showing their friends what they were working on. Both of their stage names come from their childhood nicknames: Cali, for Alejandro and Dandee for Mauricio.

Going viral and building fanbases in places like Spain and Argentina.

While Cali y El Dandee had a solid fanbase in their native Colombia, they were not aware that their music was making waves in places like Spain in the early days of streaming around 2009-2010, when their music videos were first being shared online.

“Actually, it took us a while to realize that we were popular in Spain because our team would let us know about our music sales rising, but we had never been there before or knew anyone there from their local radio stations. When we finally went to Spain, it was a big shock, we realized that our music had an audience not only there, but also in places like Mexico, Argentina and it was truly exciting to see that,” Dandee said.

Cali y El Dandee credit Reggaeton for embracing this new wave of collaborations among artists.

Cali y El Dandee aren’t strangers to collaborations. The pair have worked with Danna Paola, Greeicy, Sebastián Yatra, and Reik to name a few.

When it comes to creating these collaborations, Cali shared that either they already have someone in mind that they think could be a good fit as they create the first drafts of the song in the studio, or they meet up with artists and create the collaborations from scratch.

“The collaborations have played a very important role for us and have allowed us to refine and change our sound, and I think that for Urban music, collaborations are what have made this genre last so long, and why it’s heard in so many languages and how the streams nowadays come from different countries,” Cali added.

Dandee (Mauricio) talked about winning Producer of The Year at this year’s Latin GRAMMYs.

“It was a moment I had been waiting for since I was a child, a dream come true”, Dandee shared. While Mauricio is aware that there are other producers who are doing an equal or better job than him, he takes this as an opportunity to keep working hard.

“I remember so many times watching the Grammys thinking to myself ‘one day I’ll win one,’ and using that as a fuel to know that one day you’ll be on that stage as well,” Dandee added.

Their latest album Colegio is a nostalgic homage to school days.

I asked the brothers if there’s something from their school days that they would bring back.

“Renting movies at Blockbuster,” Dandee shared. “That moment when you’d go on a Friday night to rent a movie and you had the weekend to watch it. Next thing you know, you’d rewatch the movie like 2-3 times because you had to return it. It’s unheard of now to rewatch a movie within a matter of days,” Cali added.

However, there’s one thing both brothers would definitely bring back:

“More than anything, we would want to bring back concerts, and seeing people interact with the music live,” Cali said.

Notice any needed corrections? Please email us at corrections@wearemitu.com