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War Takes (Tomas de guerra)

Distributed by Women Make Movies, 462 Broadway, New York, NY 10013; 212-925-0606
Produced by Sylvia Stevens
Directed by Adelaida Trujillo and Patricia Castaño
VHS, color, 75 min.
Sr. High - Adult
History, Journalism, Latin American Studies, South American Studies, Human Rights, Political Science

Reviewed by Sean Patrick Knowlton, University of Colorado at Boulder

Highly Recommended  Highly Recommended   
Date Entered: 5/5/2004

War Takes is a potent, heartrending personal documentary by three Colombian journalists who, while documenting the ongoing guerrilla war in Colombia, provide a glimpse into the effects the war has on them as they struggle to maintain a normal life amidst the violence.

Colombia, the second richest country in the world in terms of biodiversity, exists in a state of constant turmoil amid internal armed conflict financed by the illegal traffic of drugs.

This documentary, an excellent introduction to the conflict in Colombia, begins with a brief, effective history lesson on the origins of the conflict to include the creation of the first left-wing guerrilla force in 1965 to fight, ostensibly, for social justice and land reform. Additionally, it succinctly traces the establishment of the right wing paramilitaries in the late 1980’s through the financial backing of drug barons. Today, the left-wing guerrilla and the right-wing paramilitary fight each other for control of the illegal drug and arms trade while the central government remains unable to broker a lasting peace. As a result, there is an estimated three million internally displaced people in Colombia, in addition to millions who have already left the country.

Adelaida Trujillo, Patricia Castaño, and Colbert García, middle-class journalists living in Bogotá, filmed the conflict, and their reactions to it, from 1998-2002. Far from being objective, Adelaida and Patricia narrate, in English, their personal feelings and heartbreaks about the events that shape their lives. Throughout the video they turn the cameras on themselves and their families and ask hard questions of each other during their most difficult times. Patricia recounts the frequent threats of kidnapping against her husband while Pablo, Adelaida’s son, expresses his desire to move to another country because he is always afraid. Meanwhile, in the demilitarized zone Colbert meets a fellow journalist, falls in love, and struggles to continue with life as the country falls apart around him.

This documentary succeeds by exposing the emotional toll of a conflict that has no foreseeable conclusion. Additionally, it reveals how a sense of belonging and hope for a better future can strengthen those who choose to remain in Colombia despite the violence.

Technically, the English language voiceovers and subtitles, as well as good sound and editing, complement the extensive Spanish language interviews and on the ground footage from the areas of conflict. One weakness of this production is the tendency to translate some Spanish-language expressions too strongly in the English-language subtitles, which could discourage use in the high school classroom.

This documentary is highly recommended for high school students, college students, adult viewers, and the libraries that serve them.