Three women inhabit war-torn regions of contemporary Colombia. Rocio returns from doing the laundry in a nearby stream to find her entire village destroyed, presumably by members of the revolutionary militia FARC. Mona lives reluctantly among the paramilitaries, forcibly impregnated by one of them and unable to escape until one night she stabs her keeper and flees into the jungle. Nelsa, a soldier herself, grows disillusioned by the surfeit of violence and seeks a better life in the city.
Inscribing the latest chapter of Colombia’s paramilitary history in the varying circumstances of three young women, Oscuro Animal elaborates the complexity of what remains among the world’s longest-standing conflicts. Felipe Guerrero’s debut feature premiered at Rotterdam, AFI, Camerimage, Jerusalem, and San Sebastián; Havana, where it won a Special Mention; Lima, where it won the International Jury Prize and Best Film; and Guadalajara, where it won Best Picture, Best Director & Best Cinematography.
The Darkest Animal in Felipe Guerrero's Oscuro Animal
In an exclusive essay for Filmatique, Dr. Vinodh Venkatesh examines the multiple violences of Colombia's civil conflict and the ghostliness of migration vis-à-vis Oscuro Animal, a film that evokes a full sensorial immersion in the phenomenology of the jungle.
"[B]rave and innovative… The film's strength lies in the way it casts no clear moral judgement over events, this isn't a film made to condemn a specific group of people, but rather to pose a series of questions. To whom and why was this war useful? Suffering does not seem to be a suitable answer. But what is really striking about Guerrero's film is his confident use of film techniques; the parallel editing gives the film fluidity, the first lingering shots of the faces of the protagonists counterbalance the wide shots of the Colombian Andes, outposts of a hostile environment to be escaped to seek salvation in the city"
"The immense silences of the largely wordless Oscuro Animal lend it a portentousness entirely in keeping with the seriousness of its subject, which is the effects of the violence on the bodies and minds of the victims of the armed conflict in Colombia… [The film] has cumulative power"
"Without dialogue, we become sensitized to the sounds of the forest. Roberta Ainstein's sound design creates an enveloping soundscape which extends beyond the frame. The constant chatter of birds competes with the crackle of distant gunfire; the sound of children swinging a rope drowns out the tinny chatter from the radio and the patter of rain on tarpaulins… Symbolically, and literally, the women have been denied a voice"
"The first scene is impeccable, an overture expresses in a few minutes all the tragedy this woman has lived and that to come. It is also valuable in that no sides are identified, making it possible for violence to spread to anyone, emphasizing on its consequences"