By: Claus Mueller, Senior Editor
The Columbia 2022 documentary LA BONGA first shown early this year at New York’s Doc Fortnight festival, provides a persuasive account of the lasting attachment to their community people were forced to leave 20 years earlier in Columbia. Directors Sebastián Pinzón Silva and Canela Reyes film excels in its quiet and unhurried approach to show how interpersonal communication sustains attachment to the past.
Reyes’ training in anthropology shaped this ethnographic presentation. LA BONGA focuses on the dispossession of an indigenous Afro-Colombian farming community located in the jungle forcing the old and families who had lived there for decades to leave. This dislocation mirrored the destruction of many similar communities in other Central and Latin American countries often carried out with the backing of governmental agencies.
LA BONGA does not elaborate on the process of neo-colonialism. Only a few images of threatening armed motorcyclists are shown. Instead, this unique film focuses on the long arduous march walking and on horseback by survivors and their descendants from the old La Bonga settlement. They want to reach their former home and the filmmakers place a special emphasis on the stories they share of their past experience in the jungle community. Including surviving former residents and their descendants, the group had to travel a long distance to reach their destination.
Over 20 years the jungle had recuperated the land they once cultivated and few relics remained. After arrival, they restored a small area to have space for celebrating their Bonga culture with guests. Striking is the persistence of the bonding memory and the power of oral traditions outlasting speculators and prospective settlers.