The Strategy of the Snail

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The Strategy of the Snail
Directed bySergio Cabrera
Produced bySergio Cabrera
Salvo Basile
Sandro Silvestri
Written byHumberto Dorado
Ramón Jimeno
Sergio Cabrera
Jorge Goldenberg
StarringHumberto Dorado
Florina Lemaitre
Fausto Cabrera
Frank Ramírez
Víctor Mallarino
Release date
  • 23 December 1993 (1993-12-23)
Running time
107 minutes

The Strategy of the Snail (Spanish: La estrategia del caracol) is a 1993 Colombian comedy-drama film directed and produced by Colombian filmmaker and director Sergio Cabrera.[1] The film stars Frank Ramírez, Florina Lemaitre, Humberto Dorado, Fausto Cabrera and Carlos Vives. The film is a winner of the Berlin International Film Festival and the Biarritz Film Cinema Festival of Latin America. The film deals with the hardships of lower income families in Bogotá, the breach between rich and poor, and their interactions in a highly stratified social system. The film was selected as the Colombian entry for the Best Foreign Language Film at the 67th Academy Awards, but was not accepted as a nominee.[2]


The film starts with news reporter Jose Antonio Pupo (played by Carlos Vives) interviewing a man after the movie events had taken place. This gentleman, who is also a tenant, reveals to the journalist how the physical house where the tenants lived for so many years was taken to a different place by rudimentary but ingenious means. The man's story in interwoven with the depiction of the events.

The building is an old one and it is home to different kinds of people. All of them are humble and from diverse backgrounds. They are told to leave the house because its owner, an obnoxious, rich man from Bogotá's exclusive area, has new plans for it. The tenants are confronted with the authorities who are trying to evict everyone from the building. Then, the tenants decide to take a stand by locking doors and shooting at the policemen who try to carry out their orders.

After this confrontation the tenants are given more time so everyone in the house has enough time to find a new place to live. The tenants are legally represented by "Perro" Romero (Frank Ramirez) —who is annoyed by anyone using the nickname "Perro" meaning dog—. Romero is a man with some academic background and has the means to deal with the authorities and Dr. Holguin's (the house owner) lawyers.

Dr. Holguin uses dirty tricks to create pressure on Romero to the extent that he is kidnapped and beaten by Dr. Holguin's men. Meanwhile, at the building, Jacinto (Fausto Cabrera), an intellectual and rebellious Spaniard, devices a way to remove everything inside the house (walls, windows, bathtubs, kitchens, toilets, roofs, etc.) and have all of it moved to a piece of land located on the hills of western Bogotá. Jacinto shows "Perro" Romero how it can be done by the use of a rope and pulley, which he does by demonstrating him how the pulleys and ropes are used in theatrical stages to lift very heavy weights. He does this on the stage of the Colón theater.

Jacinto is able to convince the rest of the tenants so everyone becomes a team player and helps in the construction of a tall wooden tower that would help move everything to another house couple of blocks away.

As the house is being dismantled by the tenants Misia Triana (actress Delfina Guido) accidentally finds the silhouette of virgin Mary on a wall. Misia Triana, a very religious lady who was the fiercest opponent of Jacinto's project, finally agrees with the condition of having the virgin moved first.

After going through a series of events and hazards the tenants are able to remove all the insides of the house, but in order to gain more time, Romero tells Dr. Holguin's lawyer Victor Honorio Mosquera (Humberto Dorado) that the tenants wanted to paint the house as a way to apologize for any inconvenience they might have caused, to which Mosquera agrees.

As the deadline approaches, the tenants have removed everything inside the house and have moved it to the hills by using horse-drawn wagons, informally known in Bogotá as zorras. By the time lawyers, policemen and Dr. Holguin himself eagerly approach the house to witness that the tenants have actually left they are surprised by a huge explosion and the collapsing of the house's facade. After the dust and debris have dissipated they find a house painted in a wall with a graffiti style writing superimposed that reads "Here's your motherfucking painted house."

The movie goes back again to news reporter Jose interviewing the man who is finally upset by a reporter's question and so he leaves the scene. Finally the tenants are shown gathered in one of the hills with a panoramic view of Bogotá and a Colombian flag can be seen waving.


The film was originally envisioned by Ramon Jimeno as an inspiration based on a story he had read in a newspaper, about the removal of tenants in a house whose legal procedure had taken such a long time that by the time the authorities had to intervene they realized that the house no longer existed.

Although Jimeno had envisioned the movie several years before it was screenwriter and actor Humberto Dorado who finally shaped it into a dense 400 pages screenplay, that eventually became the original screenplay and a blueprint for the film. Later after the majority of it was filmed, screenwriter Jorge Goldemberg came as an editing consultant and restructured the film, but it was not only until Nobel Prize Gabriel García Márquez saw the pilot of the film and encouraged Sergio Cabrera to continue with the making of the film. Because of budget problems and the lack of support of the Colombian government the film took four years to be fully completed . In fact by the time the Colombian government was actually shutting down the cultural organizations that supported filmmakers such as Focine.

The film was shot in Bogotá's downtown with several scenes filmed in the depressed areas of the eastern hills.


  • Carlos Vives - José Antonio Pupo: A journalist who investigates Gustavo Calle's famous snail strategy.
  • Frank Ramírez - "Perro" Romero: A lawyer not yet graduated, also a tenant of Casa Uribe who defends the interests of his fellow tenants. Maliciously nicknamed "El Perro" (The Dog) for being attached to the laws.
  • Fausto Cabrera - Jacinto Ibarburen: An exiled republican anarchist Spanish who manages the strategy of the snail; bring the house on his back disassembling and taking it to another location.
  • Vicky Hernández - Eulalia: A middle-aged woman who lives with her disabled husband Lázaro.
  • Ernesto Malbran - Lazaro: The sick and invalid husband of Eulalia.
  • Florina Leimatre - Gabriel/Gabriela: A good-hearted transvestite helps the strategy.
  • Humberto Dorado - Víctor Honorio Mosquera: Corrupt and naive lawyer of Dr. Holguín
  • Victor Mallarino - Dr. Holguín: Arrogant and cocky financial person who wants to evict the tenants of the house to make it a national monument when he really does not care about the house.
  • Luis Fernando Munera - Gustavo Calle Isaza "el paisa": Smart tenant who has a snake as a pet. Tell the story of the strategy to the journalist Samper at beginning and end of the story.
  • Edgardo Roman - judge Díaz: Weak judge who carries out the evictions.
  • Sain Castro - Justo: Militant of the left who is not very in agreement with the methods and ideas of Jacinto.
  • Delfina Guido - Misia Trina: Religious woman who has lived for 50 years in the house. Although he does not want to leave her, he has a vision of the Virgin Mary and decides to support Jacinto's strategy.
  • Salvatore Basile - Matatigres: Holguin's thug.
  • Ulises Colmenares - Arquímedes: Cyclist also tenant of the house. Collaborate with the strategy until the end.
  • Luis Chiappe- Diogenes: Tenant seller of mirrors and crystals that also helps the strategy.
  • Luis Fernando Montoya - Hermes: Tenant young motorcyclist who lives with his wife at home and collaborates with the strategy.
  • Rosa Virginia Bonilla - Dona Concepción: Secretary of court
  • Yesid Ferrara - Locksmith
  • Clemencia Gregory - Journalist
  • Jorge Herrera - Car Washer
  • Rodrigo Obregón - Gas station owner


The film was released in Colombia on December 23, 1993 and it has been critically acclaimed because of the way it depicts the realities of Colombia's strict stratified way of life. The film has won several prizes, it was the winner of the Golden Spike in Valladolid's Film Festival and several others.

See also[edit]


  1. ^ "The Strategy of the Snail". NY Times. Retrieved 27 September 2015.
  2. ^ Margaret Herrick Library, Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences

External links[edit]