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Promoting the next generation of storytellers in the Colombian Amazon

Promoting the next generation of storytellers in the Colombian Amazon

When we first heard the pitch for Green Frontier (known internationally as Frontera Verde), part of what attracted us to the project was the rich heritage of Leticia, the Amazonian city that served as a backdrop for the series and is home to indigenous groups such as the Witoto, Inga, Tucano, Ticuna, and Nukak.

So when we traveled to film the series in 2018, we wanted to make sure we portrayed this culture and community authentically. What we didn’t expect was how welcome we were made to feel. In addition to working on the series as production, makeup and customs assistants - some even as actors  - many Leticians were kind enough to share their traditions to help make the show come to life, such as using local plants and other ingredients for makeup.

When production wrapped, we wanted to find a way to say thank you and provide a creative opportunity for community members to keep their ancient heritage and interest in our industry alive.

So we partnered with FICAMAZONÍA Foundation, a non-profit committed to giving voice to the Amazon rainforest and promoting its protection through cinema. Together, we created a five-week audiovisual narrative “boot camp” for Amazonian locals. It was the first of its kind. To be considered, applicants had to be local to the region, and demonstrate a serious interest in entertainment and a certain degree of specialization in related fields. Of 32 participants chosen, 60 percent were of indigineous origin, 35 percent were women, and they spanned four decades and seven different languages. 

The program, which ran over two months earlier this year, included workshops on topics such as directing, photography, production, sound, and art, all taught by top industry professionals from Colombia, as well as the United Kingdom and the United States. With the goal of teaching basic technical, conceptual, and aesthetic principles of filmmaking, the coursework culminated in the making of two short films, one fiction and one documentary, both of which just debuted on Netflix Oct. 2.

Behind the scenes with the fiction crew at the Frontera Verde workshop.
Behind the scenes with the documentary short crew at the Frontera Verde workshop.

The shorts, The Puzanga and The Tree of Life and Death, both tell rich stories about the local region and culture. The former is a fictional tale about a lonely young Amazonian who enlists the help of an old wise man to make the object of his affection notice him. The latter is a documentary about a small town near Leticia grappling with the death of its longtime spiritual leader. Both shorts are available to stream as part of the ‘Trailers and More’ section of the Green Frontier series page.

Although participants were unable to screen the finished products together because of the pandemic, they can now watch the shorts on service and also share them with our members. Upon completion of the workshop, participants also received a certification from the National University of Colombia. 

As we tell more stories in this region, we want to continue to work with local talent and, through programs like this one, plant the seeds of a next generation of storytellers who can best tell stories about this one-of-a-kind place they call home.