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Interview: Colombian filmmaker

A young Colombian filmmaker makes a splash at Cannes with his new film.

Film director Ciro Guerra. (Courtesy of Ciudad Lunar Producciones)

BOGOTA — Ciro Guerra is a young Colombian film director who’s just made a big splash in Cannes where his film, “Los Viajes del Viento,” or “Wind Journeys,” won a prize in the category “Un Certain Regard” ("A Certain Regard").

The story follows Ignacio, a renowned juglar, or traveling musician, who has swayed audiences across Colombia playing soulful ballads on his accordion. But after Ignacio’s wife dies, he decides to return his instrument, fabled to be cursed, to its owner and Ignacio’s mentor. As he begins a journey by foot, mule and canoe across the unforgiving landscapes of the country’s north, a teenager and aspiring musician, Fermin, insists on joining him, despite Ignacio's reluctance. Together, they journey across sweeping and stark landscapes and encounter colorful characters.

The film — more than four years in the making — was a logistical feat, with shoots in 84 locations, many of which could be reached only by mule, canoe or a 4x4 truck. One scene at a mountaintop hut involved 20 mules carrying equipment and a crew of 40 along with them. None of the actors were professional — for six months, those in charge of casting scoured the country's north for talent.

I spoke with the 28-year-old Guerra in Bogota shortly after he returned from Cannes. (Note: this interview has been edited.)

GlobalPost: Where did the idea for this film come from?

Guerra: I was born and spent parts of my childhood in the region where the film is set, and I grew up with the oral tradition and mythology and the legends and the music in its purest state. This character of the juglar was a character that always fascinated me.

This was the first time a Colombian film screened at Cannes in over a decade. What was the reaction like?

The screening in Cannes was very special. We got a standing ovation for 10 minutes, it was unbelievable, people wouldn’t stop clapping ... people from all over the world. This figure, the juglar, the minstrel, every culture has a variation of that, so people can relate. People say it’s a vision of Colombia they had no idea about. People are very used to the cliche of drugs and violence and maybe some touristy places like Cartagena, but really a profound version of Colombia like this, people have never seen before and they are very moved by it.

Do you think the film surprised Colombians also?

A lot. Because this is an unseen Colombia, an unknown Colombia, and they’re discovering it for the first time. The people in the region where we shot, they feel this is real, this is finally a portrayal that is accurate of them and their culture. But in the rest of Colombia, people say "We had no idea Colombia is like this."