In Conversation: Germán Gutiérrez, untouched territories and trustful histories.

Colombia has one of the most complex yet unexplored histories in South America, it is an endeavour of its own just to try to explain in the most stripped-down conversational terms. When I saw Germán Guitiérrez’s documentary: History Will Judge, on RIDM’s programme I knew I had to watch it. It is not every day that as a Colombian I get to see a feature-length film concerned with the most pivotal moment in our history in the past decade.

It was clear from the get-go that this was not a common documentary, although it is an all-encompassing retelling of the events that happened between 2014 and 2020, Gutiérrez focuses his attention on the individuals that will not populate the history books. The unnamed, the forgotten, the real actors of the war. This decision did not come as a surprise upon meeting Germán, a man that through his filmography has always been dedicated to highlighting people that are shadowed by the magnitude of the entities and events that surround them. Germán’s soft-spoken nature is reflective of his sensibility with the camera, a complete humanist approach, allowing the subjects to be themselves with no ulterior narrative motivation. This is on its own indicative of a great understanding of one’s surroundings. His ability to grasp the importance of vast stories that like building blocks, start creating history as we know it. 

Germán’s technical process as a cameraman is also highly featured all throughout his films. Since his first documentary about the working conditions of tobacco farmers in Canada, Germán has been a filmmaker who understands that hyper-stylized images are not what his stories need. Influential of aesthetics adjacent to Cinema Direct, Germán places the camera where cranes and catering trucks do not fit.

I wish I could say we dedicated the entirety of our hour-long discussion around History Will Judge, but our conversation swiftly turned into a familiar chitchat you would have with someone you’ve known for a very long time. I believe this is Germán’s biggest feature as a filmmaker, a true innate ability to open his heart (and eyes) to the understanding of whoever else is in the room. As minutes went by, we started talking about our hometowns, our travels, and how we were both bound to return soon. Yet we rarely touched base on the actual events that take place in his film.

Like most of the subjects in History Will Judge, war became more of an inconvenient neighbour rather than a life-defining event. It as is if an occurrence that keeps on happening never becomes character-defining. It is refreshing to see an invitation to understand that our human essence remains unaltered even if it is pushed around and brought down. Nothing embodies this better than Carolina and Ernesto in the rural community they build after the peace treaties are signed. They go back to their roots, untouched. They go back to their true selves before the war flipped their world upside down.

Once I understood the severity and the magnitude of German’s work, I understood why our conversation went in that direction. How tiring it must be for a filmmaker to carry the heavy burden of their nation’s history in an archive that not only caterers to Colombian nationals but to a global audience. How wearing it must be for a person to revisit the inhumane conditions and the brutality of war reflected in the dejected communities where a half-a-century-long conflict was being fought. We needed not to go back and forth around a subject that we know all too well.

There is nothing else I can add beyond an extended invitation to watch Germán’s film.

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