Violeta Ayala is an award-winning Indigenous filmmaker and writer from Bolivia. Her other credits include “The Flight,” “The Bolivian Case,” and “Stolen,” which has won numerous awards and aired on PBS. Ayala is currently working on a documentary about black rights in Australia and a screenplay about her grandfather, leader of the Bolivian Communist Party and friend to Che Guevara. She is a founding member of United Notions Film.
“Cocaine Prison” will premiere at the 2017 Toronto International Film Festival on September 10.
W&H: Describe the film for us in your own words.
Va: “Cocaine Prison” is a film about the ordinary people caught up in the drug war. We shot everything from ants to mountains and all things in between.
The film follows Daisy and Hernan, teenage siblings who dream of forming a band. They end up caught in the middle of a web beyond their imagination. Hernan is arrested while transporting cocaine from Bolivia to Argentina and is sent to San Sebastian Prison. While there, he meets Mario, a cocaine worker who has been in prison for years without a trial. While visiting the prison we gave cameras to Hernan, Mario, and other inmates and asked them to film. We made this film with their collaboration.
The film is very personal and character driven; it’s shot and put together like a fiction film. “Cocaine Prison” humanizes the drug workers while highlighting the unfairness of the drug war.
W&H: What drew you to this story?
Va: I was tired of seeing the narrative of the gun-toting narco myth over and over on screen. I’m not saying Pablo Escobar or El Chapo don’t exist, but rather that those stories are the exception.
The majority of the people involved in making and transporting drugs are young and/or vulnerable. It’s a big global business and it works the same way that globalization does: Indigenous people, people of color, and the young and poor risk everything, while those at the top make the money.
These “drug workers” are not devilish or stupid; they are people whose lives depend on a business that those in power have determined to be illegal. Everyone is hurting in the North and the South. The drug workers are part of a long chain.
I wanted to tell this story from my eyes and my own experience. I’m an Indigenous filmmaker from Bolivia. I grew up with this war on drugs and it has affected my life. I watched through my window as the army tore apart families and detained and violently beat anyone they believed was working in the cocaine business.
During the 80s and 90s, poor farmers were the target of the DEA and Bolivian army. The war on drugs has failed. However, governments worldwide choose to continue punishing the most vulnerable rather than accept the failure and look for alternatives.
The war on drugs is not only racist, but is also colonialist. I believe we won’t have real democracies in Latin America until this drug war reaches an end.
It’s a very dangerous moment in our history. Bolivia is one of only four countries (all of which border the Amazon) that produces the coca leaf — the main ingredient to make cocaine. The tentacles of this drug war have stretched from the cities to the jungle. It affects our environment and the Indigenous groups in the middle of the Amazon, where they have lived for tens of thousands of years.
W&H: What do you want people to think about when they are leaving the theater?
Va: I would like them to feel empathy. The drug war is a complex issue that affects us all.
There is an increased awareness of where our food comes from and how it is produced. When people consume illegal drugs, they have no idea where the substances come from and how they are produced. Because of the illegality of the drug trade, there is a disconnect about where drugs are coming from and the effect this industry has on the lives of others and the environment.
I want the audience to go further in questioning the global drug trade from a different point of view.
W&H: What was the biggest challenge in making the film?
Va: The time it took to make the film. Every story is a journey on its own. We started filming seven years ago. We taught English and filmed inside San Sebastian Prison for almost four years. It was tough. I met Daisy and Hernan when they were 17 and 19, respectively. I watched them grow, and they are like family to me now.
Another big challenge was bringing the elements together. I wanted the film to shy away from a Western, stereotypical narrative that tries to explain everything to outsiders. My challenge was to bring a Western audience to our world.
The film isn’t based on interviews; it follows the real life stories of these people, up-close and personal. It tries to counter the Western narrative about the drug war through poetics and gentleness. The music is also part of that creative process. An Australian composer came to Bolivia and recorded Bolivian musicians, marrying a traditional film score with Andean instruments, melody, and sound.
Following my voice in a Western-dominated media was the biggest challenge.
W&H: How did you get your film funded? Share some insights into how you got the film made.
Va: I have always funded my films through film foundations and broadcasters. “Cocaine Prison” has gained support from Sundance, MacArthur, Tribeca, Chicken and Egg, Cnc, Bertha BritDoc, Open Society Foundations, Screen Australia, Latin Public Broadcaster, and others.
It is draining to think of the time I spend writing grant applications. As you can imagine, most of the time it’s met with rejection.You have to have thick skin and really want to make the film.
I try and try and keep trying, always improving my applications and my materials so funders can understand what I’m trying to achieve.
W&H: What does it mean for you to have your film play at Tiff?
Va: It’s the second time that I have a film at Tiff. My first documentary, “Stolen,” premiered at Tiff in 2009. “Stolen” had a very long and successful festival life that included close to 100 festivals and 16 awards.
I’m the first Bolivian filmmaker to have two films premiering in Toronto, and this year I’m also one of the two Australian directors at Tiff. “Sweet Country” director Warwick Thornton is Aboriginal, and I’m Quechua. This makes me incredibly proud.
There is an African proverb that says, “Until the story of the hunt is told by the lion, the tale of the hunt will always glorify the hunter.”
W&H: What’s the best and worst advice you’ve received?
Va: Best advice: Three-time Academy Award nominee Deborah Dickson (who is like the midwife of all of my films ) once told me that film is like a puzzle. You have to keep trying until you have every piece in its place so you can see the entire picture.
Worst advice: When I was at university in Australia, a classmate told me that I was wasting my time and that, because English wasn't my first language, I could never work in the industry.
I have endured a lot of racism and sexism through my career because I dare to be myself and don't usually compromise. It's hard to be an Indigenous filmmaker and a woman of color in a world dominated by white male filmmakers, funders, etc. I generally don't let racism and sexism bother me too much.
W&H: What advice do you have for other female directors?
Va: I’m skeptical about giving advice because something that might have worked for me won’t necessarily work for another person.
Watch “Kung Fu Panda” and go wild on your own terms.
W&H: Name your favorite woman-directed film and why.
Va: Ava DuVernay’s “13th” for many reasons. It features a black woman telling us the story from her perspective. It’s a complex film told with so much dignity. It’s a film that everyone should watch to understand the deep roots of racism, slavery, domination, U.S. prisons, and the world.
I also love “Me and You and Everyone We Know” by Miranda July. Miranda takes us into her world, and I really love that. She doesn’t try to tell a big story or whitewash a narrative. Miranda really focuses on her experiences and is creatively wonderful.
W&H: There have been significant conversations over the last couple of years about increasing the amount of opportunities for women directors yet the numbers have not increased. Are you optimistic about the possibilities for change? Share any thoughts you might have on this topic.
Va: I believe change is on our hands and we have to keep fighting. Change doesn’t come from the top down, but rather the other way around.
Change won’t happen because few opportunities have arisen in the last few years — this is a naive way to see it. We live in a male-dominated world, and the film industry is no different. If we talk about what is fair, only women should make films for the next 100 years. Maybe then we could talk about opportunity.
As a woman filmmaker of color, I also believe that we need to be conscious about who is telling the story; we must not repeat the mistake of colonization that male filmmakers made. We can’t talk about feminism without talking about racism, opportunity, and privilege. Women filmmakers are people, not a statistic. It’s so unfair to try to measure our involvement after a few opportunities have been thrown at us without a real and deep change in the system.
We are creating and raising our voices. This is a process, and I’m sure we will change the system — we the women of the world.
Tiff 2017 Women Directors: Meet Violeta Ayala — “Cocaine Prison” was originally published in Women and Hollywood on Medium, where people are continuing the conversation by highlighting and responding to this story.
New Release: Available Now for Film Festival & Event ScreeningsUnder Gen. Fulgencio Batista, Cuba Took In Some 6,000 Jewish Diamond Cutters And FamiliesCuba’s Forgotten Jewels explores the little known story of the Jewish refugees who escaped Nazi-occupied Europe and found a safe haven on the Caribbean island of Cuba.
Watch the Trailer
Cuba’s Forgotten Jewels: A Haven in Havana
Directors: Judy Kreith & Robin Truesdale
USA, 2017, 46 minutes, In English
Exhibition formats: Dcp, Blu-ray, DVD
A Tropical Story of Diamonds and Holocaust Survival in ‘Cuba’s Forgotten Jewels’
New film explores the forgotten era when the Caribbean island became a temporary gem hub after opening its doors to thousands of European Jews fleeing the Nazis.
— Times of Israel, August 14, 2017
After a wave of Jewish refugees emigrated in the 1920s and 30s, Cuba shut its doors to immigrants, most notably to the Jews aboard the ship the St.
Doug Liman on Swingers, getting arrested, American Made, Bourne and much more...
It was only a couple of weeks ago that we last spoke to Doug Liman, who in July was promoting his compact, $3 million war thriller The Wall. Now, he's back with another thriller, this one taking place over a much broader canvas. American Made tells the story of Barry Seal, a pilot who wound up running missions in and out of Central America for the CIA; taking covert photographs and smuggling in guns.
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The film's the perfect vehicle for Cruise, given that he gets to fly lots of planes, but then again, Barry Seal's hardly your typical heroic Cruise lead: Seal earns a fortune running guns for the CIA and cocaine for the cartels, but
He has been careful to build a career that was commercially viable so as to maximize his ability to be constantly creating and experimenting with films that were sometimes aggressively uncommercial. Along the way, he has fought to be as efficient a filmmaker as possible – constantly trying different approaches and new technology to make and
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Juno’s initial acquisitions that it will launch with are 2 films previously covered on this blog that have been without Stateside distribution
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Christopher Nolan taking on Howard Hughes. Spike Lee making a boxing epic around Joe Louis. Kathryn Bigelow resurrecting Joan of Arc for a female warrior saga unlike any the big screen had ever really seen in the 1990s. We’d buy a ticket for all them years in advance if we knew they were definitely happening.
With many of our favorite auteurs currently in production on new movies,
Jon Lopey, the sheriff in California’s Siskiyou County, told People that Elizabeth and the 50-year-old Cummins had stayed in Black Bear Ranch for an unknown amount of time before moving on to a remote cabin in Cecilville, California, approximately 15-20 miles away.
It was in Cecilville that Elizabeth was recovered safe and Cummins was arrested last week, after they had been staying there for several days,
U.S. producer and writer Noah Evslin has boarded the project as the series’ showrunner. Evslin has served as co-producer on ABC shows like “Grey’s Anatomy,” “Scandal” and “How to Get Away with Murder.” He penned episodes of “Colony” and “Private Practice” and also worked as a history professor at the University of Hawai.
Series recreates the escape of the six survivors (three from Cuba, the rest from Bolivia) who formed part of the guerrilla force that revolutionary hero Ernesto “Che” Guevara formed in Bolivia.
Cubans Dariel Alarcón, Leonardo Tamayo and Harry Villegas and Bolivia’s David Adriazola, Inti
The new poster (see below) was revealed by iZombie star Rose McIver, who shared the artwork on Twitter. iZombie Season 3 premieres on The CW with two new episodes on April 4th beginning at 8:00pm Et.
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Poster via Twitter:
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Pablo Larrain gained attention with American audiences with his stunning drama Jackie, about Jackie Kennedy immediately after the assassination, but the Chilean-born director has another outstanding film opening in theaters now. The Spanish-language Neruda focuses on Nobel Prize winning poet, essayist and politician Pablo Neruda, a beloved national figure in his native Chile and throughout South America, who became a target of a political crackdown after WWII.
Neruda is both an entertaining and intellectually stimulating film. Rather than a conventional biopic, director Larrain tells this story as a chase, with the poet/politician pursued by a police detective played by Gale Garcia Bernal.. Neruda has a streak of dark humor and begins with strong film noir elements, which eventually give way to the surreal, while exploring Neruda’s life and work.
With two TV shows and many movies on the way, here's our look at the thus-far unused X-Men mutants we'd like to see Fox bring to the screen.
A mild spoiler for X-Men: Apocalypse is contained within.
It’s been 17 years since Fox brought the X-Men to cinema, and despite making nine movies in the universe (with a tenth about to come out) they’ve barely scratched the surface of Marvel’s expansive mutant franchise.
However, with two TV shows in the works and further spin-off movies planned, it seems as though the X-Men franchise might finally give fans the deep cuts they’ve been looking for – and we don’t just mean from Wolverine’s claws. No, more screen time means more roles to fill, and that means Fox might start making use of some of the lesser-used characters available to them.
That’s why we
1970 / Color / 1:85 widescreen/ 79 min. / Street Date October 18, 2016 / Gas-s-s-s / available through the Olive Films website / 29.98
Starring: Elaine Giftos, Robert Corff, Cindy Williams, Bud Cort, Ben Vereen, Tally Coppola, Lou Procopio.
Cinematography: Ron Dexter
Film Editor: George Van Noy
Original Music: Country Joe and the Fish
Written and Produced by George Armitage
Directed by Roger Corman
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If…. is an important film of its time, occasionally droll and inspiring in its provocation of middle-class establishment values but more often charged with unsettling anger and resentment toward the intense pain registered by its various characters. Focusing through a darkly comedic lens on the torments inflicted by authorities on a trio of misfits in a regimented, highly traditional English boarding school, viewers are prodded to answer the question asked in the above poster: which side will you be on? When If…. reaches its explosive conclusion, our response is likely to be urgently felt and quickly resolved, but it’s not the kind of answer that’s likely to rest all that comfortably on our conscience if we let its implications sink in.
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Last year, we braved the cold Vancouver autumn to visit the set of War For The Planet Of The Apes. Here's what happened...
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The great maverick directors of the 70s and 80s went to some very strange places in their quest for realism. Werner Herzog coaxed a legion groaning extras to drag a full-size, very heavy steamboat up the side of a Central American mountain in Fitzcarraldo. William Friedkin’s underappreciated masterpiece The Sorcerer sent Roy Scheider off in a truck over a long and very rickety-looking bridge. Francis Ford Coppola’s Apocalypse Now famously took in heart attacks, purloined corpses and fits of megalomania in the deeper, darker parts of the Philippines (standing in for Vietnam).
War For The Planet Of The Apes
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