For no one is a secret that the tragedy of others sells, in this lies the secret of success for various content such as the survival realities or channels dedicated to “true crime” today, and have given life to epics, dramas, and even comedies that have accompanied us throughout the history of mankind.
I do not intend to demonize this type of stories or those who consume them, in fact, as a production company, we are developing several non-fiction projects such as Appellation of Origin, which takes place in the Pacific; some series true-crimes that explore a couple of the most painful cases of femicides in Colombia and realities of citizen survival, travel, and food.
My intention here is to reveal to myself where this fascination with human drama in stories comes from. There is a kind of identification. We suffer, and we rejoice before the path that the protagonist or the character that attracts our attention, we live the nightmare or the adventure that does not exist in our reality.
Thanks to my training as a filmmaker and my work evaluating content for Studio AYMAC, I have reviewed many stories, and I agree that if there is no big goal, no big problems, or if the characters are not at a turning point in their lives, it is much less fun to watch and less exciting what happens. That’s why the couples in romantic comedies and love stories in movies are usually unhealthy, especially when the crux of what they’re telling us is the relationship and not some reality that surrounds them. The obstacle is needed, and often it is the characters themselves and their dysfunctional relationships.
Now, although it is clear that regardless of the genre, we like to see characters facing difficulties, it has become an easy way out, to resort to stories of misery to capitalize on the morbid curiosity that awakens in all of us the lives of the most unfortunate. This would not be a problem if we were really looking for something more in those stories than exploiting the suffering of those who live it, but unfortunately, as it became a business to show foreign audiences the most lamentable conditions of national life, the pornmisery became one of the main export products of Colombian cinematography, no matter if it is fiction or documentary.
Although there are creators who have produced audiovisual content that refers to other facets of national life, it is sad to see how most of the economic support goes to stories that go to the safe, showing the European public, mainly through film festivals, the depressing and miserable South America that they imagine: a third world where you can not be happy or succeed unless it is emigrating or selling coca. I correct it, the immigrant will not be happy, he will suffer everything that is not written in distant lands. Only the “Narco” has the right to success until they kill him.
The reality is that thanks to this, there is an image that equals in misery to all countries that are not part of the First World. In addition, they sell a life in scarcity (I do not say poverty) in which no one can be happy, characters who are not happy with who they are and what they live, something that from experience, through the trips I have made and the people I have met is not so true and that has led to revere those who get money, no matter how, since it is the only door that is shown to us as a way out of that frightening reality.
It seems to me that when we visit different populations, we know their way of living and we want to be empathetic from our expectations of life, without listening to what those people try to share with us, looking with pity at the things that are important to them. We equate their dreams and needs to ours, and we are not able to get out of it, judging how they should feel and what a character should be ashamed of.
Recently following the most media tic murder case of this year in Spain, where the victim was a Colombian, beyond being terrified by the luridness of the case, I was terrified to see the way they see us from outside, not say everyone, but the public that knows us from the soap operas: “If that man had money it is because he is surely a narc”, “surely as a surgeon he was a botch because what can you expect from him”, “surely he had to do with the cartels, and it was them who killed him, they want to blame an innocent” (same excuse that the murderer of Valentina Trespalacios wanted to use to get away with it).
For decades, we have been satisfying the needs of these foreigners who want to believe that they are more civilized and peaceful than we are. They observe with superiority the suffering of the elderly, the child, the abandoned woman, those who live alienated from reality, who consume psychoactive substances, the prostitute who uses her body to support herself and, ironically, they admire the narcos and murderers who inhabit our lands. Joy is presented as the exclusive good of the wealthy, and dramas such as physical abuse and the desire for money as the exclusive good of the “poor”.
I don’t want to romanticize poverty, I don’t want to invent a goodness and an idyllic life for those who live with little, I just want us to be open to accept other voices. It is not necessary to hide reality in order to speak respectfully about people, their lives and their choices.
From here, I would like to speak with admiration for all those who write stories that go beyond the framework in which Latin American filmmakers are pigeonholed. That which dictates that there are colors, themes and ways of creating that are specifically Colombian or from any other country; as if it were a fantasy to say that in these countries live people with legal money, who are among the richest people in the world; that there are legal migrants who arrive in other countries and whose drama is not to escape from the police, and who freely exercise their professions without living as outcasts; that there are also people who are successful in their professions and who are not at all interested in going to live somewhere else, and that the prostitute and the drug addict can have things in their lives of which they can be proud.
Reality bites, yes, but it is not our duty to change the mentality of people who find their lives satisfactory, even if their conditions do not seem so to us. We are so busy thinking about how sad the life of a child who doesn’t wear shoes in Africa is, that it doesn’t even occur to us that in reality he may not need or want them.
I would like to conclude by saying that I hope that in the future we will see more diversity in the content that the government supports with our taxes, that when we talk about inclusion, it means the inclusion of other realities, so that they are seen and we can add to the collective memory more of those stories that do not skate on the same problem, and less we impose our vision of the best way to live on everyone, judging who finds comfort and joy even with scarcity.
As a society we have many ways of living, problems and mentalities. It will be a step in the right direction if we can reflect on the screens all those other Colombia that are hidden behind the sadness of pornmisery.