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MANATI, Portrait of a third-world happy town| 1hr : 53mins
Focus Years: 2012 | Country: Colombia
Subject Tags: americas, colombia, conflict, human rights, politics
Quality Tags: Optimistic, Slow, Activating, Harmonizing
How do people survive in a third-world town? What are their expectations, their problems, and their dreams? "Manati, Portrait of a third-world happy town" is an attempt to answer these and other questions posed by the social and political convulsions of Colombia “Manati, Portrait of a third-world happy town” opens with a 10-minute personal commentary about the recent violent history of Colombia. Viewers learn that for the last 50 years, Colombia has been the scene of an undeclared war amongst guerrilla fighters and paramilitary squads. The documentary filmmaker introduces us then to the social work of his great-uncle Jaime Santander SJ, an agrarian leader and reformer who, in the 1960s, changed the socioeconomic conditions of Manati, a small town of the Colombian Caribbean coast. The documentary goes on, then, with 12 miscellaneous portraits of Manati: 1. Peace: two sociologists discuss the current violence in Colombia, and later introduce us to Manati, an exceptional model of peace in the region. They both believe that the relative prosperity of Manati is mainly due to the educational work of two Jesuit priests during the 1960s. 2. Health: a 10-minute direct cinema sequence of a wounded man struggling to be attended to by the only nurse available in the local health center. 3. Union: The sociologists point out that the strength of Manati relies on the local union, a committee of about 100 peasants that has acted as the most influential social actor in the region. 4. Spirits: The documentary filmmaker has been warmly received by the people of Manati, who, as a matter of fact, see his journey as an spiritual return of their deceased leader Jaime Santander SJ. 5. Land: Peasants recount the history of their successful struggle for land in the 1960s, during which 90,000 acres were given to the poor. They stress the immense work that Jaime Santander SJ did as their main advocate and protector. 6. Education: People of Manati talk about Jaime’s last project: the creation of an unprecedented agrarian university in the region run according to the Jewish self-sufficient project of the kibbutz. Mainly funded by the peasantry, the university only lasted three yeas before going into bankruptcy due to the intense ambitions of the very few and the laid-back attitude of the majority. 7. Jaime: A brief portrait of the life of Jaime Santander, and an attempt to understand the causes of his death in 1974, at only 49. 8. Youth: The documentary filmmaker sees in the widespread unemployment amongst the young, the main cause of Manati’s latent social problems. 9. Asogama: A 9-minute direct cinema sequence of the biggest cooperative of milk producers in the region, in which Carlos Acuña, a peasant leader and a friend of Jaime, asks a secretary to justify the many irregularities of the cooperative accounting books. 10. Ethics: A presentation of the local attitudes about politics, sexuality, drug-trafficking, and the armed conflict in Colombia. 11. Economy: A brief glimpse of the current economy of the region, in which a new generation of poor peasants have replaced the no-longer-poor peasantry of the 1960s. 12. Manati: A short journey through the lagoon of Manati, in which the documentary filmmaker reflects on the material and spiritual value of his great-uncle’s work.
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