Foco Silvestre

By the end of Los Conductos (Camilo Restrepo’s first feature film, IndieLisboa 2020) one can hear: “The world would be much simpler if things didn’t have colors or sounds and if one thing couldn’t mean another or be a memory from another life.” Restrepo’s cinema is the complete opposite of all that. It believes in the power of pigments and sounds, in the polysemy of words and images, by evoking the specters that haunt our colonial past and Colombia’s troubled present. His cinema is a handcrafted sensory magma.

With his first shorts, Restrepo headed to the tropical forest of the Chocó region, in search of the archival ghosts of Christian missionaries and television consumerism, in Tropic Pocket (2011); he let himself be dazzled by the liveliness of the street artists who make their living on the avenues of Medellín (which were taken by the toponymy of war and violence), in Like Shadows Growing when the Sun Goes Down (2014); and he proposes an alternative history of his country’s last decades through the printed signs in newspapers, the streets and on the bodies of Colombians, in La impresion de una Guerra (IndieLisboa 2016, Best Short Documentary).

Then, with Cilaos (IndieLisboa 2017) and La Bouche (2017) duo, Restrepo started filming in France and was taken away by the Reunion Islands’ rituals of transcendence – maloya – and by the invigorating percussion of Guinean Mohamed Bangoura. Two “musicals” about the loss and the transforming power of music and its ability to bring the dead back to life.

For Los Conductos, Camilo returned to Medellín to launch us on a nocturnal journey into the crime-filled streets, in what is perhaps his most political film. Inspired (in part) by the life of the main actor, Pinky, and by a text from Gonzalo Arango, we follow a man who wanders through a city riddled by villainy. Similar to his experiments with the short format, Restrepo folds the film over itself, in a labyrinth of mirrors where reality and its shadows merge together: the thing (the revolver), its image (filmed in 16mm), its iconography (Pinky’s drawing) and its symbol (the message engraved on the butt of the gun, “This is my life”) blend into a “miniature theater of representations” that can be as much a vision of God as of the devil.

But what defines Camilo Restrepo’s gaze is his attention to the gestures’ procedural dimension. He only films experienced hands which resonate on the way one cuts a tire, makes tattoos or prints a fabric. This craftsmanship also reflects his dedication to cinema in its analogue format. Part of the L’Abominable collective, which runs a film laboratory shared by several Parisian artists, Restrepo believes in a cinema of emulsions (and emotions). That is why it was inescapable, in a retrospective of his work, to give him a carte blanche, composed of films directed by members of this group. A compliment to the luxury of textures and the unpredictability of processes and a tribute to those who always gave him “technical and moral support”.

Ricardo Vieira Lisboa