The Atrato is a 750 kms long river. Its basin is one of the world territories with the greatest biological, ethnic and cultural richness. It involves a territorial space of 33 municipalities (19 in Chocó, 14 in Antioquia). It is an eco-region in which ancestral ethnic groups coexist. Since 1997, mechanized mining activities and unauthorized exploitation of forest resources have created a major environmental crisis of which one of the most worrisome effect is the contamination with toxic substances such as mercury. After several years of complaints and legal actions, a 2017 Constitutional Court’s ruling declared the Atrato River “subject of rights”. With this groundbreaking decision by which this river is considered (legally) a person, river’s guardians have the ability to sue on its behalf if it is mistreated through pollution or deforestation.
To treat the river as a person, as the Court has stated, needs an effective cultural and artistic correlation. The language of documentary filmmaking provides a unique way to do for its ability to raise consciousness and encourage new point of views and sensitivities. Following this Court’s decision, to personify the river; to relate with it as a subject and not a mere object, is the duty of an artist. We aimed to promote and facilitate this task for filmmakers. By doing so, we not only can contribute to prevent the harm of the river, but we also can help to disseminate this major and promising legal notion.
With the Colombian Constitutional Court's decision in mind, 5 Colombian filmmakers were set the task of filming the Atrato River. We asked them to make it a cinematographic focal point, to look at it, and thereby get it to look back at us. Each of these films, and their experience with the river, are both unique and shared. They invite us to become a part of it, make its gesture our own and take responsibility for our own perspective.