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Cinema of Colombia

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Cinema of Colombia
No. of screens815 (2013)[1]
 • Per capita1.9 per 100,000 (2013)[1]
Main distributorsCine Colombia 37.9%
United International Pictures 34.8%
IACSA 16.6%[2]
Produced feature films (2013)[3]
Number of admissions (2013)[4]
National films2,163,964 (4.9%)
Gross box office (2013)[4]
TotalCOP 353 billion
National filmsCOP 15.5 billion (4.4%)

Cinema of Colombia refers to film productions made in Colombia, or considered Colombian for other reasons. Colombian cinema, like any national cinema, is a historical process with industrial and artistic aspects.

Historically, Colombian cinema has not been profitable as an industry, which has prevented continuing production and employing filmmakers and technicians.[5] During the first decades of the 20th century, there were some companies that attempted to maintain a constant level of production, but the lack of economic support and strong foreign competition ended up ruining the initiatives. In the 1980s, the newly created state-run Cinematographic Development Company (Compañía de Fomento Cinematográfico FOCINE) allowed some productions to be carried out. However, the company had to be liquidated in the early 1990s.[6]

In 1997 the Colombian Congress approved Law 397 of Article 46, or the General Law of Culture, with the purpose of supporting the development of the Colombian film industry by creating a film promotion mixed fund called Corporación PROIMAGENES en Movimiento (PROIMAGES in Motion Corporation).[7] Starting in 2003, there has been growing cinematographic activity, thanks to the Cinema Law that allowed initiatives around cinematographic activity to be reborn in the country, through the creation of the Cinematographic Development Fund (FDC).


Poster of a Lumiere Brothers movie

The history of Colombian cinema began in 1897 when the first Cinématographe arrived in the country, two years after the invention of cinematography by Auguste and Louis Lumière in Paris. The cinématographe was first demonstrated in the port city of Colón (in what is today Panama but was then part of Colombia), Barranquilla, Bucaramanga and later arrived to the capital city of Bogotá. In August of that same year the cinématographe was presented in the Municipal Theater (which was later demolished).

First years[edit]

Soon after the introduction of the cinématographe in Colombia, the country entered a civil war known as the Thousand Days' War, causing the suspension of all film production. The first films usually portrayed nature and moments from everyday Colombian life. The majority of these films were led by the Di Domenico brothers who owned the Salón Olympia in Bogotá. The Di Domenico brothers also produced the first documentary film in Colombia called El drama del quince de Octubre (The Drama of October 15th), which was intended to celebrate the centenary of the Battle of Boyacá, and also narrated the assassination of General Rafael Uribe Uribe, provoking controversy upon its release.[8]

Photogram of the film Bajo el Cielo Antioqueño (1924–1925)

Silent films[edit]

La tragedia del silencio (1924, fragment).

During the early years of Colombian cinema, producers almost exclusively portrayed nature and everyday life in their films until 1922, when the first narrative fiction film appeared, titled María (of which no complete copies remain). The film was directed by Máximo Calvo Olmedo, a Spanish immigrant who worked as a film distributor in Panama. He was hired to travel to the city of Cali, where he would direct and manage the film's photography. The film was based on Jorge Isaacs' novel María.[9]

Another pioneer of Colombian cinema was Arturo Acevedo Vallarino, a producer and theater director from Antioquia who lived in Bogotá. After the introduction of foreign films and the fascination they caused in Colombia, theaters no longer were as profitable as they once were, so Acevedo decided to found a film production company called Acevedo e Hijos (Acevedo and Sons).[10] Acevedo and Sons was the longest lasting production company in Colombia, and were in business from 1923 to 1946- the only one to survive the Great Depression of the 1930s. Acevedo and Sons produced the films La tragedia del silencio (The Tragedy of Silence) in 1924 and Bajo el Cielo Antioqueño (Under the Sky of Antioquia) in 1928. Under the Sky of Antioquia was financed by local tycoon Gonzalo Mejía. The film was criticized for being elitist, but received an unexpectedly positive reception from the moviegoing public. Films in Colombia continued to be largely based on themes of nature, folklore, and nationalism, with some exceptions in literary adaptations. In 1926 the film Garras de oro: The Dawn of Justice (Claws of Gold; the title is half Spanish and English) was released. It is distinctive for being based on a political issue, the separation of Panama from Colombia, and for criticizing the role of the United States in the conflict, both bold firsts in Colombian cinema.[11]

1930s crisis[edit]

Photogram of the film: Garras de oro (1926)

In 1928 the Colombian company Cine Colombia purchased the Di Domenico film studios, which commercialized international films because of their promising profits. At the time, the Colombian public preferred international films to Colombian ones. As a result, from 1928 until 1940, only one feature-length sound film was produced in Colombia: Al son de las guitarras (To the Rhythm of the Guitars) by Alberto Santa, which was never shown in theaters. Colombians were more interested in Hollywood films. Colombian film industry enthusiasts did not have the money, technology or preparation needed to develop a national cinema. While Colombian movies were still silent, the international industry was already exploding with color and sound films, thus putting Colombian cinema at a considerable disadvantage.

In the 1940s a businessman from Bogotá named Oswaldo Duperly founded Ducrane Films, and produced numerous films, despite facing strong competition from Argentine and Mexican cinema, which after 1931 became the third most preferred choice of Colombians.[12] The only production company that survived during this period was Acevedo and Sons, until it closed in 1945.

During the 1950s Gabriel García Márquez and Enrique Grau attempted to restart the industry. In 1954 the two artists, a writer and a painter respectively, created the surrealistic short film La langosta azul (The Blue Lobster). García Márquez continued in the industry as a scriptwriter while Grau continued painting.

'Pornomiseria' cinema[edit]

Child on the street, one common scene from 1970s "pornomiseria"

Pornomiseria cinema was the term used by Colombian critics in the 1970s for certain films that exploited poverty and human misery, with the goals of making money and having their directors achieve international recognition. The term "pornomiseria" was coined by the Argentine director Luis Puenzo to criticize over-representation of marginalized lives in Latin American cinema.[13] (See also Misery porn or Poverty porn for parallel phenomena.)

One of the most criticized examples was Gamín (1978) by Ciro Durán, a documentary about children living on the streets. The film went beyond simply depicting urban poverty by staging recreated scenes of, for example, children stealing car radios. Among the loudest critics were the filmmakers Carlos Mayolo and Luis Ospina, leaders of the Grupo de Cali. Among other films they made was the mockumentary The Vampires of Poverty (1977), a satire of pornomiseria cinema.[14] The filmmaker Víctor Gaviria stood out for his social films that scandalized some sectors of public opinion for showing the reality of the lives of street children, as was the case with the award-winning film La vendedora de rosas (The Rose Seller, 1998).

Cinematic Development Company (FOCINE)[edit]

On July 28, 1978, the Compañía de Fomento Cinematográfico (FOCINE) (Cinematic Development Company) was established to administer the Cinematic Development Fund, which had been created a year before, in 1977. FOCINE was first assigned to the Colombian Ministry of Communications, which in a period of ten years supported 29 films and a number of short films and documentaries. Corruption in the administration led to the closing of FOCINE in 1993.[15] During this period, Carlos Mayolo's work transcended and introduced new forms of film-making in Colombian cinema, renewing the aesthetics and visual language of national cinema. Gustavo Nieto Roa helped to develop comedies influenced by Mexican cinema.[16]

During the last decade of the 20th century, the Colombian government liquidated FOCINE, forcing film makers to co-produce films with other countries, mainly from Europe and private capital investors. Despite this, some important productions were developed, such as La estrategia del caracol (The Snail's Strategy) by Sergio Cabrera, which won numerous international prizes and managed to revive national interest in national films. Also, Jorge Alí Triana won many prizes and much recognition from Bolívar soy yo (I Am Bolívar, 2002).[17]

Cinema Law[edit]

In 2003, the Colombian government passed Law 814 of 2003, also known as the Cinema Law, which standardized help for local film production. The funds were collected through taxes from distributors, exhibitors and film producers. The goal was to support film producers, short films documentaries and public projects. Funds collected were administered by the PROIMAGENES Cinematographic Production Mixed Fund.[7]

Numerous films were sponsored by the government and were successful at the local box office such as Soñar no Cuesta Nada (Dreaming Costs Nothing) by Rodrigo Triana, with 1,200,000 spectators, an unprecedented attendance at the time.[18] Another was the film El Colombian Dream (the last word being in English to highlight a play on the concept of the "American Dream") by Felipe Aljure, which achieved technical innovations and employed a narrative never before seen in Colombian cinema. Some critics considered this period as the "renaissance of Colombian cinema" and as the best possibility in its entire history of having a well-established industry.[19]

During the second term of President Álvaro Uribe Vélez, the government presented a tax reform to cut funding to the Law of Cinema. The president was criticized for this,[20] but the minister of Culture, Elvira Cuervo de Jaramillo, lobbied in the Ministry of Finance to impede this law from affecting the financial resources destined to Colombian cinema. The Minister of Finance agreed to protect the benefits for the film industry.[21]

International projection[edit]

Despite Colombian cinema having had a very small presence in international events, some documentaries during the 1970s had relative success, such as "Chircales" (1972) by Marta Rodríguez and Jorge Silva, which won international prizes and recognition.

During the 1990s Silva gained notoriety with the film La estrategia del caracol (The Strategy of the Snail, 1993) and Víctor Gaviria did so with his films Rodrigo D: No futuro (Rodrigo D: No future, 1990) and La vendedora de rosas (The Rose Seller,1998), which was nominated for a Palme d'Or at the Cannes Film Festival.

In the 2000s, actress Catalina Sandino Moreno was nominated for an Academy Award for her acting in the Colombian-American production Maria Full of Grace. Moreno was also nominated for best female acting at the Berlin International Film Festival in 2004 and won, sharing it with actress Charlize Theron.

Documentary films[edit]

Documentary productions in Colombia have varied in quality. Nevertheless, they haven't been widely distributed due to barriers that the film industry imposes regarding the exhibition and distribution of material. Viewers interested in focusing on these audiovisual materials are rare.

During the 1970s, in the city of Cali, there was a great boom, not only in film but in the arts in general. At that time the Grupo de Cali was formed, which would include Carlos Mayolo, Luis Ospina, Andrés Caicedo, Oscar Campo and other documentarists and directors who portrayed a particular sense of place and reality through their work. At the same time, documentarists like Marta Rodríguez and Jorge Silva produced a seemingly unending array of documentaries that discussed anthropology, portraying forms of life and realities unknown to many.

Animated film[edit]

The development of animated film in Colombia, as in the rest of Latin America, has been slow and irregular, and it is only in recent years that animation has begun to gain importance. The first initiatives in the country were around the 1970s, especially in television commercial production. Nonetheless, it was at the end of the past decade that Fernando Laverde, considered the pioneer of stop motion animation in Colombia,[22] and used experimental methods and limited resources to create short animated pieces that received national and international recognition. Bogota native Carlos Santa explored the world of animated film as fine arts and is considered the father of experimental animation in Colombia. In 1988 with the support of FOCINE,[23] Santa released his film El pasajero de la noche (The Passenger of the Night) and in 1994 La selva oscura (The Dark Jungle) at the Caracas Film Festival. Both films received critical recognition for their artistic and narrative merits. In 2010, Carlos Santa completed his first feature-length animated film Los Extraños Presagios de León Prozak (The Mysterious Presages of León Prozak) which premiered at the Annecy International Animated Film Festival. In the 2000s there was renewed activity in Colombian animation, thanks to the interest of a new generation in the genre and the emergence of new technology. In 2003 the animated full-length film Bolivar the Hero was released, and the LOOP Animation and Video Games Festival was born, where Colombian and Latin American animators' work was encouraged and rewarded.

Film festivals[edit]

Many film festivals take place in Colombia, but arguably the two most important are the Cartagena Film Festival, functioning every year since 1960, and the Bogotá Film Festival, functioning every year since 1984, both presenting Latin American and Spanish movies.

Other competitions[edit]

Asides from both international festivals, there are year-round meetings, expositions and festivals that gather audiences and award local film makers. The most notable are as follows:

  • Cien miradas, un país: "A Hundred Eyes, A Country", a film festival that takes place every year in Colombia and in several European cities. The event is organized by the Foundation for the Development of Audiovisual Arts or "Fundaudiovisuales."
  • Eurocine: A competition held every year since 1995, in which European films are shown that aren't available through commercial distribution. The event is organized by the Bogotá office of the Goethe-Institut, the European commission's delegation in the Cinemateca distrital de Bogotá.[24]
  • Festival de cine francés (French Film Festival): An exhibit of the best of French cinema held every year in September since 2001, and is backed by the French embassy in Bogotá, Medellín, Cali and Barranquilla. It includes conferences, workshops and roundtables.[25]
  • Semana de Cine Colombiano, Sí Futuro (Colombian Film Week, Yes Future): Stemmed from the growth in Colombian film making after the passing of the Cinema Law. It began in 2006 as an exposure to Colombian cinema and began awarding noteworthy films, filmmakers and actors by an international jury.
  • Imaginatón: A bi-annual film making and film screening marathon, where professionals and amateurs of all ages and nationalities are invited to make a filminuto in plano secuencia ("shot in sequence"). The best films are selected and awarded by a specialized jury. The event is organized by Black Velvet Laboratories, a company dedicated to the field of "audiovisual entertainment analysis and development".[26]
  • Festival de Cine y Video de Santa Fe de Antioquia (Santa Fe de Antioquia Film and Video Festival): A festival that has been taking place since March 2000 by the Santa Fe de Antioquia Film and Video Corporation and organized by film maker Víctor Gaviria, with the stated aim of promoting film making and forming an audience in the Antioquia region. However, film makers from all over the country can participate.[27]
  • MUDA Colombia: The Colombia University Audiovisuals Exhibit (MUDA, its abbreviation in Spanish) is an annual contest where the best of university work receives awards, as well as pedagogical techniques proposed by film professors all over the country.[28]
  • In Vitro Visual: One of the best established short-film-related events in Colombia, this event presents Colombian shorts on Tuesdays and foreign ones on Thursdays. Films are chosen through an annual contest presided by a jury of veteran film makers. At the end of the event, awards and official statuettes (Santa Lucia) are distributed, as well as cash prizes. This event is organized by Black Velvet Laboratories and In Vitro Producciones.[29]
  • LOOP, Festival Latinoamericano de Animación & Videojuegos (Latin American Animation and Video Game Festival): An animation festival emphasizing digital work that seeks to motivate young artists. The festival's website has developed into a community which encourages learning and sharing work.[30]
  • CineToro Film Festival: An emerging event dedicated to promoting experimental and independent films. It's an annual festival and has gained a lot of attention for having many rare film showings and remarkable international guests.

Shows and distribution[edit]

In Colombia there are five major commercial movie theatre chains: Cine Colombia, Cinemark, Cinépolis, Procinal and Royal Films. There are also many independent movie theaters, such as the Cinemateca Distrital de Bogotá and Los Acevedos in the Museo de Arte Moderno de Bogotá.

Openings in Colombia[edit]

Year Box office openings from
the Colombian film industry
Foreign box office openings Total box office openings Percentage of Colombian
box office openings
1993 2 274 276 0.72%
1994 1 267 268 0.37%
1995 2 249 251 0.80%
1996 3 270 273 1.10%
1997 1 251 252 0.40%
1998 6 237 243 2.47%
1999 3 NA NA NA
2000 4 200 204 1.96%
2001 7 196 203 3.45%
2002 8 176 180 2.22%
2003 5 170 175 2.86%
2004 8 159 167 4.79%
2005 8 156 164 4.88%
2006 8 154 162 4.94%
2007 12 189 198 6.06%
2008 13 200 213 6.1%
2009 12 202 214 5.6%
2010 10 196 206 4.9%
2011 18 188 206 8.70%
2012 22 191 213 10.8%
2013 17 227 244 7.07%
2014 20 274 284 7.04%
2015 37 332 369 10.02%


Highest-grossing Colombian films[edit]

Colombian highest-grossing films as of 2023[35][unreliable source?]
Rank Title Gross Year
1 The 33 $12.19M 2015
2 Maria Full of Grace $6.52M 2004
3 Love in the Time of Cholera $4.61M 2007
4 Embrace of the Serpent $1.33M 2015
5 Our Lady of the Assassins $0.53M 2000
6 Birds of Passage $0.51M 2018
7 Esmeraldero $0.10M 2003
8 Gabo: The Creation of Gabriel Garcia Marquez $0.01M 2015
9 Rabia $0.01M 2009
10 Bad Lucky Goat $0.01M 2017

Box office number-ones[edit]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b "Table 8: Cinema Infrastructure - Capacity". UNESCO Institute for Statistics. Archived from the original on 24 December 2018. Retrieved 5 November 2013.
  2. ^ "Table 6: Share of Top 3 distributors (Excel)". UNESCO Institute for Statistics. Archived from the original on 17 January 2014. Retrieved 5 November 2013.
  3. ^ "Table 1: Feature Film Production - Genre/Method of Shooting". UNESCO Institute for Statistics. Archived from the original on 5 November 2013. Retrieved 5 November 2013.
  4. ^ a b "Table 11: Exhibition - Admissions & Gross Box Office (GBO)". UNESCO Institute for Statistics. Archived from the original on 25 December 2018. Retrieved 5 November 2013.
  5. ^ Mora, Orlando. "Los buenos días del cine colombiano". Wayback Machine (in Spanish). Archived from the original on 2015-05-02. Retrieved 2023-11-22.
  6. ^ "El Cine en la Ultima Década del siglo XX: Imágenes Colombianas". Archived from the original on 2011-12-14.
  7. ^ a b Proimagenes en Movimiento: Origen Archived 2007-08-25 at the Wayback Machine (in Spanish) proimagenescolombia.com Accessed 26 August 2007.
  8. ^ Luis Ángel Arango Library: Fin del periodo "primitivo" Archived 2010-02-16 at the Wayback Machine (in Spanish) Luis Ángel Arango Library Accessed 26 August 2007.
  9. ^ Luis Ángel Arango Library: Calvo, Máximo; Biografía Archived 2007-08-12 at the Wayback Machine (in Spanish) Luis Ángel Arango Library Accessed 26 August 2007.
  10. ^ Luis Ángel Arango Library: Entrevista con Gonzalo Acevedo Archived 2009-07-05 at the Wayback Machine (in Spanish) Luis Ángel Arango Library Accessed 26 August 2007.
  11. ^ Hernando Martínez Pardo, Historia del Cine Colombiano, Editorial América Latina, pages 50 to 55 and 80.
  12. ^ Cuadernos de cine colombiano Nº 23, pages 2–5 March 1987 Publicación periódica de la Cinemateca Distrital, Maria Elvira Talero y otros autores
  13. ^ León, Christian (2005). El cine de la marginalidad: realismo sucio y violencia urbana. Editorial Abya Yala. ISBN 9789978225233. Consultado el 4 de diciembre de 2017.
  14. ^ Khan, Omar (24 November 2007). "Desde la 'pornomiseria' hasta los circuitos comerciales". El País.
  15. ^ COLARTE: Historia del cine en Colombia Archived 2016-01-10 at the Wayback Machine (in Spanish) Colarte.com Accessed 27 August 2007.
  16. ^ Palacios Obregón, Camilo (2013-09-07). "Pájaros y Escopetas". Archived from the original on 7 Sep 2013. Retrieved 2023-11-22.
  17. ^ Senses of Cinema: Rescuing the Image: The 5th Ibero-American Film Festival, Santa Cruz de la Sierra, Bolivia (in Portuguese) Senseofcinema.com Accessed 27 August 2007.
  18. ^ Pro Imagenes Colombia: La taquillera Soñar no cuesta nada se lanza en DVD y gana premio del público en Chicago (in Spanish) proimagenes colombia.com Accessed 27 August 2007.
  19. ^ El Colombiano. https://www.elcolombiano.com.co/BancoConocimiento/G/g_cine_junio24_2007/g_cine_junio24_2007.asp?CodSeccion=113. {{cite web}}: Missing or empty |title= (help)CS1 maint: url-status (link)
  20. ^ Colombian newspaper El Tiempo, printed edition of August 20, 2006, pages 2.1 and 2.2
  21. ^ MINCULTURA: La Ley de Cine en propuesta de Reforma Tributaria Archived 2007-02-13 at the Wayback Machine (in Spanish) mincultura.gov.co Accessed 26 August 2007.
  22. ^ Patrimonio fílmico colombiano, Perfil de Fernando Laverde
  23. ^ Revista Kinetoscopio, Págs. 114, 115
  24. ^ Festival Eurocine Archived May 9, 2007, at the Wayback Machine
  25. ^ Festival de cine francés Archived 2007-05-19 at the Wayback Machine
  26. ^ "Imaginatón". Imaginaton.net. Archived from the original on 2012-07-27. Retrieved 2011-11-04.
  27. ^ "Festival de cine y video de Santa Fe de Antioquia". Festicineantioquia.com. Retrieved 2011-11-04.
  28. ^ "MUDA Colombia". MUDA Colombia. Archived from the original on 2013-06-16. Retrieved 2011-11-04.
  29. ^ "In Vitro Visual". CO-BO: Blackvelvetlab.com. Archived from the original on 2010-02-01. Retrieved 2011-11-04.
  30. ^ "LOOP Festival Latinoamericano de animación y videojuegos". Loop.la. Retrieved 2011-11-04.
  31. ^ Exhibición y distribución Archived August 24, 2007, at the Wayback Machine
  32. ^ *1993 - 1999, "Impacto del sector fonográfico sobre la economía colombiana: situación actual y perspectivas" Zuleta, Jaramillo, Reina, Fedesarrollo, 2003.
  33. ^ *2000 - 2006, Dirección de Cinematografía, Cinecolombia
  34. ^ "El 2015, un año agridulce para el cine colombiano". www.eltiempo.com/entretenimiento. 30 December 2015. Retrieved 2020-03-25.
  35. ^ "IMDB search". IMDb.com. Retrieved 16 August 2023.



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