Luis Ospina

Luis Ospina

Throughout the forty-five years of his uninterrupted career, Luis Ospina (Cali, Colombia - 1949) has explored a variety of trades that have shaped his insightful vision of cinema. Editor, critic, actor, producer, curator and festival director, loving executor of his friends’ memories, obsessive accumulator of moments of our national culture, Ospina is also a highly personal director whose work is fundamental to understand the debates, horizons and transformations of Colombian and Latin American cinema.

His first works were experimental short films, deeply rooted in the nonconformist spirit of the sixties that he discovered as a student in California. The films he saw in UCLA changed his vision of the art forever and opened “the doors of his perception” regarding what could be achieved through the edition of existing footage. This lastingly fuelled his obsession for memory and his conviction that cinema is a place to preserve it and to question it.

Both a creator and a destructor of myths, Ospina has confronted the truths inherited from tradition and conformism. In the first period of his filmography, he and his vehement friend Carlos Mayolo challenged the official and institutional cinema in Oiga vea, and the opportunistic usurpation and commercialization of misery in The Vampires of Poverty (Agarrando pueblo). In Asunción, they unleashed the fears of their own social class by enacting a social uprising that would abolish its privileges – a historic threat come true. Like their friend and mentor Andrés Caicedo, they carefully and methodically derated, searched and exposed the otherness that fear conceals behind a monstrous facade.

In the eighties, as they mourned the fragile and yet fatherly figure of Andrés Caicedo, they took a leap into feature films during what is still known as the Focine period. Through their first feature, Pure Blood (Pura Sangre), they established the stylistic landmarks of a Colombian film genre, the “tropical gothic”, and soon came up with a nickname to coin the creative energy, humor and nonchalance that were thriving in this vibrant city of southwestern Colombia: Caliwood.

Towards the end of the decade, the golden age of drug trafficking and subsequent destruction of Cali’s urban patrimony and traditional civic life forced Ospina, Mayolo and others members of the Cali Group out of their precarious paradise. Ospina had to reinvent his art in the midst of technological changes like the emergence of video, which opened up a whole new sensorium. The obsession of memory settled in, revealing itself to Ospina as great documentary material, while the parting of friends and acquaintances made him aware of his own fleeting condition.

From Andrés Caicedo: A Few Good Friends (Andrés Caicedo, unos pocos buenos amigos) to A Paper Tiger (Un tigre de papel), his documentaries about artists – cult or popular, banished or forgotten, marginal or fictitious – or about bodies of work and traditions on the verge of oblivion, shaped a “memory in motion” of our national culture. This urge to retrieve and safeguard it is a touching trait of an artist who dedicated his work to a handful of faithful friends.

It All Started At The End (Todo comenzó por el fin), his latest documentary, is the testament of a director used to filming other people’s biographies until circumstances forced him to film his own. The result of this necessary display of the private self is the relentless experience of a life dedicated to friends and cinema from beginning to end.

Through this tribute, the FICCI pays homage to the friend and to the master, to the man of cinema who is a crucial reference for several generations, to the lucid man and to the skeptic, to the gentleman who brought dignity and stature to all that crossed his journey. Some of his films, and some made by others, selected by his passionate eye, are all part of this token of gratitude.