VLAFF: Chocó portrays a woman’s battle for a better life in remote Colombia
Jhonny Hendrix Hinestroza’s film Chocó is a visually stunning story set in a remote region in western Colombia.
The main character, Chocó, is a young mother who joins other women as they are transported in the back of a dump truck to work in a local gold mine. When she gets fired for being late too many times, she finds work with a local artisanal miner, who prides himself on not using machinery or mercury.
Watching the character try to juggle work with walking her children from their small shack to their school each day is heartbreaking, especially when the mother is unable to scrape enough money together to pay for a birthday cake for her seven-year-old daughter.
Equally sad and difficult to watch is the abuse that Chocó faces from her husband, who stays out late drinking and gambling over dominoes with other men in the town, and plays a marimba during the day.
But Hendrix Hinestroza paints a picture of a strong female character who is prepared to fight back against the domestic violence. Even her young daughter isn’t willing to put up with the sexist catcalls her mother faces from the local corner-store owner each day.
Other serious themes are alluded to throughout the film, including race, unemployment, and the exposure to mercury that locals say they face when gold mining. (One young girl tells Chocó that she was born with six toes on one foot because her mother had to do mining work when she was pregnant).
The vibrancy of the Afro-Colombian culture also plays a major role in the film, with beautiful traditional singing and music weaved throughout the narrative.
Filmed in a style reminiscent of a documentary, Hendrix Hinestroza’s feature offers a memorable story of a strong woman determined to make a good life for her children.
Chocó screens as part of the Vancouver Latin American Film Festival at The Cinematheque on Monday (September 2) at 7:30 p.m. and on Saturday (September 7) at 9:15 p.m.