"Amongst blacks you will die; you have the black condition and among them you will die! - he said to me. Yet here I am. It could be a blessing or a curse, but here I am." - Don CaThose are the opening remarks from Don Ca (Camilo Arroyo Arboleda), the subject of this feature documentary by Patricia Ayala. Sixty-year old Don Ca left a good job and salary forty years ago, and bought a canoe to travel to the Colombian Pacific coast town of Guapi, where he settled and lived ever since. The forgotten region is war territory today and deemed impenetrable. According to the long synopsis in the film's website, Don Ca never imagined that forty years ago, his mission would be to
straighten out "black sheep."Apparently, when Don Ca, a descendant of slave owners, arrived in the town, the black children would run from him frantically because they had never seen a white face. Their terror was so great that their mothers began to take their children to see Don Ca with the hopes that their own fear will rid them of their bad habits. It was then that Don Ca ended up becoming a teacher to several generations of black children: lost cases and children going into adolescence amidst violence and poverty.
By the way, the above was a Spanish-to-English translation. I did find however, a synopsis in English, which follows below:
Camilo Arroyo (Don Ca) comes from a di!erent century. A white explorer who goes to conquer the black continent, he arranges an economic situation to live with the essentials in the Colombian Paciﬁc jungle; with a canoe, a half-built cabin and a monkey on his shoulder. It’s in an exclusive area, and mostly black. Don Ca is the only pale skin around. An extravagant and mysterious fellow, surrounded by children under his guardianship as an amateur dentist, cock ﬁght trainer, witch doctor, and o”cial “bogeyman” to discipline those kids that pee the bed.
Arroyo doesn’t care what people think of him, and he has been a true leader and a self-assumed father for the last 40 years, without expecting anybody’s approval. Sooner or later, the reality of Colombian violence would come even to this lost paradise. Whether the military, the guerrilla or the narcs, Don Ca is not willing to yield them an inch of land, nor ﬁght their war to keep his peace. Although the ﬁlm is always on his side, it doesn’t hide his dark sides and leaves you wondering about the ambiguously complex personality of a fascinating man. J.M
The documentary screened at Visions du Réel in Switzerland, and is slated to screen on Swiss TV. It will screen next at Festival Internacional Documentales Santiago Chile (Santiago Chile International Documentary Film Festival), which runs June 24-29.
Watch the trailer below: