[Editing] ‘Cocalero’ and the Journey of Evo Morales

ORIGINAL

Featured at Vina Del Mar’s International Film Festival and at Santiago’s International Film Festival (SANFIC) in 2007, the important ‘Cocalero’ is returning once more to the big screen in Santiago at Cine Arte Alameda from Thursday March 19th.

The stark real documentary follows the campaign of the unlikely nominated indigenous Evo Morales in the sixty day run up to the 2005 Presidential elections in Bolivia. The film traces Socialist Evo Morales finding his political strength by battling against the ‘US War on Drugs.’ With Bolivia overflowing with coca leaf plantations and the 3.6 million indigenous out of the 9 million Bolivian population farming these plantations as their only source of family income, it is no wonder that Morales wants to defend his country. Hence, the film reveals the relationship Morales has with the cocoleros (coca leaf farmers), a movement born out of the war on drugs, supporting the legalisation of the coca leaf.

With no set narrative, Brazilian Director, Alejandro Londes, keeps the documentary beautifully unbiased, following closely all actions of Morales using a hand-held camera. Be it his speeches in his trendy blue tracksuit and his sparkling white Nikes; him swimming in his underpants in a river at El Chapare, a lush jungle in the state of Cochamba and home to the cocoleros; or of him simply speaking of his next moves while having a haircut. These honest shots allow the audience to really feel like we know Morales as a person, not just a political figure.

Another protagonist also emerges out of El Chapare: Leonilda Zurita. She is Morales’ confidante and the head of the women’s coca growers union, also running for deputy Senator of Morales’ political party MAS (Movement to Socialism). Zurita guides the audience into the world of the cocaleros where we view close-ups of the farmers working and witness interviews. We come to understand the evident impact that US drug policy has on the Bolivian nature and that Morales’ journey to power was not just about race and ethnicity.

‘Cocalero’ is strikingly stunning packed with diverse scenery shots of Bolivia: ripped roads amongst the raw dense green jungle highlight the country’s wild beauty. Broken like the people, this scenery becomes an important symbol in the film reflecting Bolivia’s reality.

Subtle iconographic messages are also present in the landscape that shout out the past and present political situation of Latin America at that time: rainbow indigenous flags (wipalas), Cuban flags and faded images of Che.

Not only do we hear sporadic MAS propaganda songs in the soundtrack but also a powerful score that mixes different instruments and rhythms inspired by ‘Cocalero’s’ characters and contradictions. As a result a universal and extremely positive sound is developed from the sounds of Mexico, the flamenco, the Irish whistle, the bombo from Argentina and hints of minimalism.

Do not mistake ‘Cocalero’ for being a boring film just about Bolivian politics, but instead it allows us a chance to understand the Bolivian culture, people and witness its sheer beauty in a highly accessible manner.

However just a warning, the languages spoken throughout ‘Cocalero’ are Spanish and the two indigenous languages of Aymaran and Quechan. The subtitles are in Spanish, not English at Centro Arte Alameda.

FINAL

After its successful showings at Viña Del Mar’s International Film Festival and Santiago’s International Film Festival (SANFIC) in 2007, Cocalero is returning once more to the big screen at Santiago’s Cine Arte Alameda.

Filmed during the 60-day run up to Bolivia’s 2005 presidential elections, the starkly real documentary follows the campaign of indigenous Evo Morales, an unlikely candidate from the Movement for Socialism (MAS) party, as he finds his political strength by battling the United States’ War on Drugs. As the film bears witness to the emerging movement that promoted the legalization of the coca leaf, which contains the basic ingredient for cocaine, Cocaleroexposes Morales’ relationship with the 3.6 million indigenous cocaleros (coca leaf farmers) dependent on Bolivia’s coca farming industry.

With no set narrative, Brazilian director Alejandro Londes maintains a beautifully unbiased 94-minute documentary that tracks Morales’ every move with a hand held camera. Whether they exhibit him making speeches in his trendy blue tracksuit and sparkling white Nikes, swimming in his underwear in a river of the lush El Chapare jungle, or simply talking about his next moves while getting a haircut, these honest shots allow the audience to transcend Morales’ political figure and see him as a person.

Protagonist Leonilda Zurita, head of the women’s coca growers union and Morales’ confidante, guides the audience into the world of the cocaleros with witness interviews and close-ups of the farmers working. We come to understand Bolivia’s economic roots in coca production and witness the US drug policy’s impact on Bolivia’s economy.

Cocalero is packed with strikingly diverse scenery shots of Bolivia, where ripped roads amidst the raw, dense green jungle highlight the country’s wild beauty. Diverse (even fractured) like the people, this scenery becomes an important symbol in the film to reflect Bolivia’s reality. Subtle iconographic messages, like indigenous rainbow flags (wipalas), Cuban flags and faded images of Che Guevara, also reveal the intricacies of Latin America’s political state at the time.

Sporadic MAS propaganda songs are heard in the soundtrack amidst a powerful score that mixes different instruments and rhythms inspired by Cocalero’s characters and contradictions. Consequently, a universal and extremely positive tone emerges from the sounds of Mexico, the flamenco, the Irish whistle, the Argentine bombo drum and hints of minimalism.

Cocalero is featured in Spanish and the Aymaran and Quechan indigenous languages, with Spanish subtitles.

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