Farming & Filming at Las Falditas
Brandon's Tall Tales
Brandon sat by the fire, its warmth caressing his face. As he sat and dragged on a self-made joint, shapes of the flora around him began to swirl and creep methodically as the drug took effect. He was sitting with a group in a farm some five miles away, and they had just dropped acid. He looked into the flames, waiting for the sensations to grow. Already, inside, he felt an electric buzzing as his atoms began to morph, his sense of self drifting around the clearing. He decided to go relieve himself before the real drop happened. Stepping out of the fire light, he felt a strange sensation of being watched. His body, however, had a need, and he followed, his girlfriend taking the opportunity to join him. They stumbled away from the clearing and around the back of the dwelling. Turning towards a wall, he began his business in the near total darkness. A sensation began to build up his back, as if a watchful wind were blowing up onto his neck. He turned his head, and before him saw a shape that he thought was a large rock. It began to grow. Slowly, with intention, it rose to double his height, before sprouting arms and legs. Eyes opened somewhere near the top and locked with his. He stood motionless, watching this beast in front of him. His girlfriend quietly moved to his side and touched his hand. She saw it too. As she did this, the beast turned and walked off, gradually, without hurry, into the overgrowth and disappeared into darkness. Shaken, but not altogether afraid, they returned to the group. A friend, hearing their tale, laughed and said "Brandon, you've just seen el Mohan. He visits us sometimes."
So went one of Brandon's many tales that he regaled us with during my week at his farm. Jim had pre-warned me of them, but I couldn't help being drawn into his visions. Naturally, I couldn't help but think a dosage of a highly psychotropic drug ingested minutes before the sighting might have played a part, but a calm visit by a Mohan, a satyr-like being believed by Indigenous cultures to appear in rural areas, seems a lucky one.
During the day, myself, Jim, and Benedikt, another German from Berlin I'd met in Medellín, built a chicken coup and chopped bamboo. Brandon spent his time mowing grass around the property and doing various odd-jobs, but didn't appear to fit the bill of "farmer". There were no crops of any sort growing on the property, despite his six or so years in residence. Pretty much all the food we ate, bar fruit, we had to purchase in town and make the long journey using Trump the horse to bring it to our finca. But in the evenings, sitting around and drinking rum, smoking weed, and watching the sun descend and the clouds gather in the valleys, Brandon really came alive.
He loved the idea that there were jaguars prowling around the property. He had two dogs, Mila and Lila. Mila loved barking at anything and everything: Chickens, pigs, horses. Mostly the other animals ignored her, but she seemed to enjoy expending the energy, and Brandon seemed to grow used to shouting at her across the property. But when both Mila and Lila were barking into the darkness, that seemed to be different. Lila would apparently only do that if a Jaguar was near. It made going to take a wizz a slightly more exhilarating experience. He told a story once of a Frenchman who had stayed on the property. The man had a propensity for white rum, and had fallen asleep in a hammock on the porch after finishing off a bottle. Everyone else had gone to bed, Brandon included, but something made him wake in the night and walk outside. He looked over to the edge of the porch and saw a jaguar there, frozen in place, watching the Frenchman and the chickens he was storing beneath his dining table. He returned to his quarters and opened the main doors. The dogs came flying out and chased away the feline predator, and the Frenchman, along with the chickens, was saved.
Much of what Brandon loved to talk about, however, was histories of the war. I say histories, because just like his supernatural stories, his relish in describing the warfare and violence of his region's past should also be taken with a pinch of salt. But, I enjoy a good story well told, and it felt like under the surface of this very soil, things past, present, and future, were stirring like restless worms, churning and consuming reality and myth in their hunt for morsels of dark, sense-making nutrition. All of them, however, need to be put in context of who the country has leading it now, someone who is perhaps a sliver of hope for the future: the newest president, Petro.
Petro - Colombia's Presidential Saviour?
Gustavo Francisco Petro Urrego, known as Petro to most in Colombia, has been leader of the country since elections in 2022, and is considered their first ever left-wing president.
As a teenager, he was a guerrilla fighter for the M-19 group, using the pseudonym "Aureliano", a prominent character in Gabriel Garcia Marquez's book One Hundred Years of Solitude. He rose to a prominent position in the group, and by the early 80s had seized a piece of land to house 400 poor families who had been forcibly displaced by paramilitary groups. Subsequently, captured by the army, he was tortured by ten days then sentenced to 18 months in prison. After this time, he gave up armed conflict and went into politics, rising to become a senator and one of the most popular politicians in the country. In 2006, he helped to expose the Parapolitics scandal, accusing members and followers of the (aforementioned) Álvaro Uribe government of mingling with paramilitary groups in order to "reclaim" Colombia. After a spell as Mayor of Bogotá, Petro ascended to the presidency with his final attempt at the job, and led a number of reforms, including appointing the first indigenous person to be ambassador to the UN, as well as creating a new military command with the objective of "substantially increasing respect for human rights and public freedoms." He also re-established peace negotiations with major guerrilla group ELN, and has began the process of upholding the 2016 peace agreement with the FARC, which will see his government buy millions of hectares of land from the Federation of Ranchers, who collaborated with paramilitaries in displacing hundreds of thousands of people during the war. Crucially, he believes in the climate crisis being a result of "addiction to irrational power and profit", and has called the war on drugs a failure; to this effect, he decriminalised the production of cocaine and marijuana in August 2022. He is also a supporter of the feminist movement, LGBTQ issues, and enforced a Constitutional Court ruling decriminalising abortion up to the 24th week.
He represents a great deal of hope, but between the various factions which claim and strive for power, most notably his enemies on the right-wing, he must tread carefully both politically and for his own safety. As with many countries that take in some area of the Amazon rainforest, its future represents a key to the future of our planet. It constitutes the largest collection of living plants and animal species in the world, and as indigenous leader Mamo Camillo has pointed out, peace won't matter if the groups involved continue a war against nature.
"When we celebrate Colombia's gift of Magical Realism to the rest of Latin America, you must understand that magical realism in Colombia is simply journalism. Gabo was a journalist. He wrote as he did because he lived in a land where heaven and earth converge on a regular basis to reveal glimpses of the divine."
While I was at the farm I took the opportunity to use my camera much more, and shot a number of sequences. One was a fun spec commercial advertising the lemonade we drank each day, using Benedikt as a rather sensual model. Thanks Ben 😘.
This next film captures something of the feeling of the rain when it hits in the late afternoon. I watched The atmospheric Korean horror The Wailing last year, which inspired the feeling and colour grade of this short film:
If you want to see more of the clips I shot there, please view this link.
Note: I received a favourite poem of Jean Paul after texting him some weeks ago, so decided to include it translated below. Warning: NSFW.
Poem from Jean Paul Saumon: In sight of God
God sees us
he observes each of our movements
he spies behind the curtain and can see our thoughts
God likes to watch us
loves to see our nudity
loves to see us touching ourselves
loves to see our orgasms
God is a voyeur
His divine eye is hiding somewhere
waiting for the moment to see how you sin
and stares at us in ecstasy
impressing in his memory each instant for later
and delighting himself with the sins of each carnal creation
God admires each body that he has sculpted
runs his gaze over the nipples, the armpits and the groins
he marvels at his work
he boasts of his genius
what I never knew is if God only watches us
if God looks at us with desire
i like to think that god also touches himself
just like I observe the bathers
saving each part of their bodies for my voracious solitude
that I will savour in secret
that’s why you should touch yourself with relish
in a form of prayer
God will always be watching.