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Review: Unwanted Witness – Témoin indésirable (2008)

Directed by: | 87 minutes |

Born and raised in Colombia himself, Juan José Lozano has also worked for Colombian television, but decided to leave his homeland in the late 1990s. In Switzerland he made several, politically tinted, short documentaries before making his first full-length documentary, ‘Unwanted Witness’. So he is no stranger to the world of political , but the difference between himself and the object of his documentary is that journalist Hollman Morris continues to live in Colombia against his will, despite political opposition, tensions in his and even death threats. .

The film begins, as it were, as an argument about the role of the media, and in particular the desired role of independent journalism, which has virtually disappeared from Colombian television (and also from the written media over the years). ). People prefer to see as much entertainment as possible; spectacle, and if the president happens to pass by, it is about the pressing question of who is more beautiful: or the average Colombian woman. The army is also hailed in spectacular promotional films as the ‘real heroes of Colombia’. In this way, in Bogotá, people do not get to see the hopeless situation that is taking place elsewhere in the country. Morris’s weekly program, ‘Contravia’, does focus on the misery that the ongoing struggle between the national army, the paramilitaries and the guerrilla movement for years. Despite widespread recognition abroad, Morris hardly receives any national attention with his program. His program is being broadcast at ever later dates and at the moment he wins a prestigious journalism award in Mexico, it is not read in any Colombian newspaper (noting that the two main national newspapers have close ties to say the least. with influential political figures).

Slowly but surely, the documentary takes on a more personal touch through the reflection of the journalistic work of Holman Morris and his own life. The enormous contrast that this creates gives the film an extra thematic layer. His luxury home, armored car with driver, nanny and security opposite the burnt-down houses of random coca farmers who have nothing left and are not helped or even seen by anyone. It is therefore to give them a face that Morris continues to pursue his work. And the women left behind whose husband or son has been taken without mercy by paramilitary groups; who now wait in despair, fear and uncertainty if and when their loved ones will ever return home. The number of missing persons is never named or even acknowledged by the government. Morris speaks of about 20,000 ‘desaparecidos’ so far, with a behind each hoping for a decent burial. Mass graves are opened to find out who might be identified.

The atrocities that Morris shows do not appeal to everyone and when death threats come in at his address, Holman Morris can no longer deny that his professional life and his private life have become intertwined, perhaps a little too much. His wife also struggles with this dilemma, she sometimes feels disadvantaged but also knows that her husband can never completely put his work aside. The focus of the film shifts a lot in the last minutes to the family story of Morris, which overshadows the earlier message a bit. Yet the political charge is sufficiently present to make the viewer think about the situation in Colombia and the consequences for different population groups.

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