Courtesy of Cimarrón Productions

The Cimarrón Productions crew

Cimarrón Is the Women-Led Film Production Company Empowering Afro-Colombians to Tell Their Own Stories

The "first Afro-Colombian film production company," is teaching filmmaking in Colombia's black communities in order to combat the lack of representation.

When filmmaker, activist, and cultural agent Heny Cuesta first started her career in Colombia, she noticed a severe lack of black creators in the industry. Cuesta, an Afro-Colombian originally from Cali, was the only Black woman in a room full of mestizo directors at a panel discussion at the International Film Festival in Cartagena de Indias (FICCI) in 2013.

"None of the filmmakers were black, but they were talking about ethnic content despite the fact that they didn't know the territory," says Cuesta. That scene shocked her, but it reflected the low number of movies directed by black directors in Colombia. In 2018, Colombia's film industry premiered 37 feature films and only one of them –Candelaria– was directed by a black director. It received many international awards.

The lack of blackness in Colombia's film industry goes far beyond studios, film festivals and production companies. Afro-Colombians make up almost 20 percent of the population but historically have had few opportunities to access education. Most black Colombians, who come from cities and towns along the Pacific and the Caribbean coasts, have been neglected and isolated due to a lack of infrastructure, as well as a lack of education and job opportunities.


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Cuesta recalls that when she went to college, she was the only black woman out of 60 students. "That was my starting point to think about what happens when others are telling me who I am." All this prompted Cuesta to start a film production company, initially with a classmate, to create a safe space for the Afro-Colombian community in the audiovisual industry, "because the Afro-Colombian community needs support and leadership to tell their stories," she says.

According to Cuesta, at the beginning "it was hard to convince my peers, because the project required money, resources, and none of us had a camera, nor stable jobs, or artistic or audiovisual background. However, that became a way to challenge ourselves to do what we could do with what we had."

It was 2013 when she officially launched the film company with a Canon T3 camera and $70. Its team consists of four young black and mestizo women: Karen González, the co-founder; Zulay Riascos, an Afro-Bogotana filmmaker; as well as Maria Rivas and Laura Asprilla, both journalists who are taking an audacious approach to the cinematic question of black representation.

Photo courtesy of Cimarrón Productions.

Now it's been five years since Cimarrón Productions has existed to train Afro-Colombian communities along different territories. They have trained black and young people on film skills, developed panel discussions, and organized movie screenings and workshops on identity, race and representation.

According to Cuesta "this is the first Afro-Colombian film production company. There were film collectives in Cartagena, Popayán and in San Andrés, however this is the first one led by black women."

This project is a feminist women collective. "For me, this became a movement when people began to recognize that they won't find audiovisual content, but rather a way of social criticism. A way to strengthen identity processes. Film is an excuse to reach that," Cuesta says.

The collective has partnered with human rights and non-profit organizations as well as anti-discrimination associations to strengthen the narratives around black communities. Additionally, they have worked with other black collectives such as Chontudas and the Matamba to understand the struggles of young people and women living in the country.

Cimarrón's commitment towards Afro-Colombian communities has led them to various territories in the country, where they have worked with communities on matters of identity and black representation. According to Cuesta, "we have worked on how to narrate, respect and recognize the pain of others. It is not just coming to their location to shoot, but starting to feel what they're living and [establishing] how we will work together."

Photo courtesy of Cimarrón Productions.

All of their works has received wide acclaim. In May 2019 Heny Cuesta was one of the few Colombians invited to the Nobel Women's Initiative in Monrovia, Liberia to talk about Colombian social conflicts and the struggles of leaders to fight for their rights and enhance cultural transformations through film.

Cimarrón has worked with more than 400 Afro-Colombian women, children and young people who are starting to tell their stories with what they have. The collective is helping more black voices reflect on their identity and narrate their stories themselves with the resources they have. As Cuesta says, "what we want to be is a voice, so that there won't be others who narrate them, others who do not have the sensitivity to do so."

They've also became a critical voices against producers who go to different territories, make films about the Afro-Colombian community and leave without giving credit or rewards to the subjects. Cuesta believes that "they never recognize where these stories come from, and from my point of view this is stealing, because they didn't have a commitment to see what they can do for these communities. They never return them back anything."

Photo courtesy of Cimarrón Productions.

Their upcoming event is a collaboration with the human rights organization Skylight Pictures, to create the first Afro-Colombia arts lab to empower black leaders, filmmakers, artists and writers, and help them develop collaborative stories on their territories and communities. Cuesta was also selected to join the workshop on narratives with social impact at the American Film Showcase. The collective is headed down a bright path, that will surely keep inspiring young, gifted and black filmmakers to tell their own narratives instead of others doing it for them.

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Image via Wikimedia Commons.

Netflix Launches 'Netflix Naija' and Announces First Nigerian Original Series

Netflix is stepping up its game in Nigeria.

After much anticipation, Netflix has announced its presence in Nigeria.

Yesterday, the streaming giant, which had been procuring Nigerian content throughout much of last year after acquiring Genevieve Nnaji's Lionheart in 2018, announced the arrival of Netflix Naija with a new Twitter account.

"N is for Naija. N is for Nollywood,"read the account's announcement tweet. "N is the 14th alphabet. 14 is also how many great talents you're looking at. N is for Netflix. But most importantly...hello, Nigeria!"

The tweet was shared along with a photo of some of the Nigerian film industry's most notable actors and filmmakers, including Banky W, Adesua Etomi, Kunle Folayan, Kemi Adetiba, Omoni Oboli as well as veteran actors Ramsey Nouah and Richard Mofe-Damijo and several others.

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Shakira performs onstage during the Pepsi Super Bowl LIV Halftime Show at Hard Rock Stadium on February 02, 2020 in Miami, Florida. (Photo by Jeff Kravitz/FilmMagic)

Shakira Brought Afro-Colombian Dance to the Super Bowl

The singer danced Champeta during her performance of "Waka Waka," as well as Mapalé.

At last night's Super Bowl LIV in Miami, Shakira and Jennifer Lopez hit the stage during the halftime show and both brought their respective Latinx cultures to the forefront during their performance.

Shakira hit the stage first, running through tracks like her hit record "Hips Don't Lie," and more. The Colombian singer later returned to the stage following Jennifer Lopez's performance for a rendition of her 2008 World Cup smash hit "Waka Waka (This Time for Africa" (a remake of the 1986 song "Zamina Mina" by Cameroonian makossa group Zangaléwa).

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Davido's Fiancé, Chioma Rowland, Tests Positive For Coronavirus

The Nigerian musician made the announcement via a heartfelt Instagram post on Friday.

Chioma Rowland, the fiancé of star Nigerian musician Davido, has tested positive for the coronavirus.

The artist shared the news via Instagram on Friday, writing that he and 31 people on his team decided to get tested after returning back to Lagos from abroad. While he and the rest of his team received negative results, Rowland's test came back positive.

"Unfortunately, my fiancé's results came back positive while all 31 others tested have come back negative including our baby," wrote Davido. He added that they both showed no systems, but would be self-isolating as a safety measure.

"We are however doing perfectly fine and she is even still yet to show any symptoms whatsoever. She is now being quarantined and I have also gone into full self isolation for the minimum 14 days," he added. "I want to use this opportunity to thank you all for your endless love and prayers in advance and to urge everyone to please stay at home as we control the spread of this virus! Together we can beat this!"

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Juls Drops New Music Video for 'Soweto Blues' Featuring Busiswa and Jaz Karis

The Ghanaian-British producer heads to South Africa for the music video for the amapiano-inspired track.

Heavyweight Ghanaian-British producer Juls shares his first offering of 2020, and it does not disappoint.

The producer enlists South African music star Busiswa and London's Jaz Karis for the jazz-inflected "Soweto Blues," which also boasts elements of South Africa's dominant electronic sound, Amapiano. The slow-burner features airy vocals from Karis who features prominently on the 3-minute track, while Busiswa delivers a standout bridge in her signature high-energy tone.

"The song dubbed "Soweto Blues" is a song depicting the love, sadness and fun times that Soweto tends to offer its people," read the song's YouTube description. The video premiered earlier today on The Fader. "The energy is amazing, the people are lovely and I've found a second home — especially the vibrancy of Soweto," the producer told The Fader about his trip to Soweto for the making of the video "Jaz Karis is singing a love song, which is symbolic of my new love of Soweto and I'm honoured to have worked with Busiswa whom I have been a fan of for a long time."

Fittingly, the music video sees Juls traveling through the township, taking in its sights and energy. The video, directed by Nigel Stöckl, features striking shots of the popular area and its skilled pantsula dancers.

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