A Cultural Embrace: the Colombian refugee crisis hits the screens in Brazil

By July 31, 2019Blog
Filme Los Silencios

On the tripoint border of Brazil, Colombia and Peru lies a small tropical island called La Isla de La Fantasia – Fantasy Island. It is the setting for the 2019 film Los Silencios, a powerful yet gentle fictional analysis of the Colombian refugee crisis by Brazilian writer-director Beatriz Seigne. A special screening of this fantastic feature brought spectators together in Latin America’s biggest city to discuss refuge and migration.

The feature film tells the story of Amparo, a woman who recently lost her husband and one of her daughters in the armed conflict between the Colombian government and the guerilla group FARC. But their bodies have still not been found. She arrives at the island with her two children to stay in an elderly aunt, and applies for asylum in Brazil. While her request is processed, she continues her fight for reparations.

Amparo struggles to get by in a radically new environment, desperately seeking a job and scraping pennies to keep her children in school – all the while negotiating with officials, equipped only with a folder filled with documents.
According to data from the UN, this conflict has displaced over 3 million people within Colombian borders since the mid-1960s. Often overlooked in international media, these internally displaced people (IDPs) are a part of everyday life in Colombia.

Because of its sensitive and humanized approach to the refugee crisis, this film was selected for screening at an event hosted by our pro bono client, NGO Abraço Cultural, a language and culture school that employs only refugees and immigrants. With the mission of breaking cultural barriers and helping the 5,000+ refugees living in São Paulo find their way in a new environment, this unique school qualifies teachers and promotes a rich exchange of experiences.

The renowned Museum of Image and Sound opened its doors for the screening, led by Abraço Cultural’s Spanish teachers Ludmila Lee and Maria Ileana Faguaga, as well as researcher and Peruvian immigrant Soledad Requena Sayer. Over 100 people eagerly packed the room. Brazil’s leading drinks company Ambev offered cold drinks free of charge, and local Colombian restaurant Macondo – Raízes Colombianas catered to the crowd with traditional delicacies, including arepas, empanadas and arroz tres leches.

After the inspiring session, Faguaga mediated the ensuing discussion on refuge, citizenship and human rights in the world today. Some attendees praised the film’s focus on the human consequences of narcotrafficking, rather than on conflict. Others advocated for more empathy and respect of the cultural, social and emotional baggage involved in seeking refuge.

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