While we were filming in Old Tamaquito, we lived in an empty hut in the village. We were able to use a second hut as an “office” in which to copy video and audio material and store our equipment. This setup allowed us to participate in village life and, equally, meant that the village community shared in our daily routines, our communication with one another, our team meetings and the technical aspects of our filmmaking. In Tamaquito, privacy is practically non-existent because life takes place outside. Only the hammocks in which people sleep are located inside the huts. People meet at the waterhole, while they’re washing or while they’re eating. We were inquisitive and so were the people of Tamaquito, which was the source of several amusing situations. Every aspect of our work in the village was visible to everyone, and this undoubtedly played an important role in building trust. A decisive moment in our relationship with the village was the second phase of filming. When we had said our farewells at the end of the first phase, we had promised to return. In doing so – and thus keeping our word – I felt that any of their remaining doubts concerning our credibility were put to rest.
From the very beginning, we were treated as members of the village community. The decision to welcome us in this way was made before we began filming. Indeed, our right to participate in – and film – the village council’s internal discussions was contingent upon it. The entire crew was included in the village’s regular spiritual rituals: cleansing ceremonies, dances and traditional tournaments.
Our film’s Production Manager is Colombian, and she was also the only female crew member. As a result, she played a key role because she was able to interact with the village’s women and children. By spending a great deal of time with them, she was able to gather the kind of information impossible to access by asking for it directly.
Tamaquito lies on the border with Venezuela, on the edge of northeast Colombia. The FARC guerrilla group is still very active in the region. In addition, a huge range of goods are smuggled across the border, particularly petrol from Venezuela. There are regular armed confrontations between smugglers and the police, and between the army and the guerrillas.
Before we began filming, Jairo Fuentes said to our team: “We want you all to go home the same way you arrived. For this reason, you must comply fully with all the safety rules”. If we went out after dark or ventured outside the village, it was always in the company of locals from Tamaquito.
On an almost nightly basis, the Colombian army fired grenades from their positions in the coal mining region towards the guerrilla camps in the mountains beyond Tamaquito. Thanks to the vigilance of the villagers, our crew didn’t experience a single seriously dangerous incident while filming.
The employees of the mining company, on the other hand, only ventured to Tamaquito in the company of a heavily-armed convoy. They live in constant fear of guerrilla attacks. When the President of the Cerrejón company, Roberto Junguito, paid a visit to New Tamaquito with his wife and children to congratulate the residents on their nice, new houses, an endless convoy of armoured limousines with tinted windows rolled into the village, accompanied by a special division of the army.