While reading guidebooks and talk to other travelers is helpful, there are few better ways to get acquainted with a new country than watching locally made films. All of the following movies and TV shows illustrate aspects of Colombian culture that will be difficult to find elsewhere. My favorites (out of order) are:
#1: Paraiso Travel
Set in Colombia, Mexico, and New York, this movie follows a young Colombian couple’s harrowing (illegal) immigration journey to the US. Aside from being robbed, mistreated, and misled, they end up getting separated in a country completely foreign to them.
#2: Rosario Tijeras
Rosario Tijeras is a classic Colombian story about a young girl from one of Medellin’s poor neighborhoods who turns hired killer. Its original format, a novel written by Jorge Franco, was made into both a movie and a highly addictive telenovela. It also inspired the photo project from my first semester at photography school, called Las Creencias (The Beliefs.) Pictured above is me with the star of the telenovela, María Fernanda Yépes.
#3: La Cara Oculta
This is a new movie starring one of my favorite Colombian actresses, the beautiful Martina García. It’s about a Spanish orchestra director who moves to Bogotá with his girlfriend. The home that they choose houses a secret that ruins relationships and destroys lives.
#4: Chepe Fortuna
Maybe the cheesiest one on the list, Chepe Fortuna is an extremely popular telenovela that ended in 2011. Starring several well-known local actors, including Colombia’s sweetheart Taliana Vargas, the story of the poor fisherman and the rich Colombian family is another addictive choice.
#5: El Encantador
El Encantador is a telenovela based on the true story of David Murcia Guzmán, the biggest swindler to come out of this country. He was responsible for a pyramid scheme that stole millions of dollars from Colombian families. While it was popular in other Latin American countries, it was taken off air locally – probably due to the fact that the wound was too fresh to be considered entertaining.
#6: Los Colores de la Montana
This is an excellent movie that offers a rare look at the effects of the internal conflict on the pueblos, or small towns.
#7: La Virgen de los Sicarios
This super low-budget film sheds light on Medellin’s sicario (assassin) culture, including their relationship with local saint Maria Auxiliadora.
#8: La Vendedora de Rosas
This is a classic Colombian movie about Medellin’s street children. A must watch for anyone coming to live in the city.
This is another film based on a true story of Campo Elías Delgado, a vet who went on a killing spree in a restaurant in the 1980s. It follows the intertwined lives of other characters and the results of their bad decisions. I bet after you watch this movie, you’ll never leave your drink unattended in a bar again.
#10: La Sierra
La Sierra is a fascinating documentary about the paramilitary conflict in one of Medellin’s barrios (neighborhoods). It gives an unforgettable, up-close look at the individual lives of those effected. You won’t see anything like this on the news.
#11: Love in the time of Cholera
Even though it’s pretty Hollywood, it’s still a good film to watch if you’re a fan of Gabriel García Márquez, one of Colombia’s most influential writers, or if you’re too lazy to read the book.
#12: Sin Tetas No Hay Paraiso
This is by far one of my absolute favorite movies on the list. It details the female fascination with fake breasts and plastic surgery as well as the prostitution industry here.
#13: El Vuelco del Cangrejo
I liked this movie because it takes place on Colombia’s Pacific coast, an area that is not often featured in films.
#14: Los Viajes del Viento
Los Viajes del Viento is the story of an accordion player and a young boy’s journey through Colombia’s Caribbean region. The cinementography alone is enough reason to watch it, guiding you through the coast’s lush green mountains to its barren deserts.
#15: María Llena Eres de Gracia
Maria, Full of Grace is an internationally known movie about a young woman’s journey as a drug mule.