While Columbia has some of the more progressive women’s rights legislation in South America, that doesn’t mean to say that being a girl or woman in the country is easy. Far from it. Levels of domestic abuse are eye-watering and abortion is extremely restricted. Violence is almost endemic in many areas of a nation where government and armed groups are continually at loggerheads. Organised crime organisations lurk in the shadows, waiting to take advantage of the vulnerable.
Teenage girls often find themselves in difficult situations in Columbia. Caught between a macho patriarchal society where violence and abuse are prevalent and widespread poverty, daily life can be difficult. However, it’s not easy to talk about such dark subjects. In Alis, the new documentary from filmmakers Nicolas van Hemelryck and Clare Weiskopf, a group of teens in Bogota are given a canvas to tell their histories.
Filmed over a period of five years in a boarding school, Alis is an inventive approach to tackling a number of social issues which blight lives in Columbia. The group are asked to imagine a teenage girl called Alis and then to tell her story. Providing a safe space for them to open up about their own experiences. As they speak directly into the camera, we’re afforded a glimpse into their lives. As you’d expect, Alis is extremely difficult to watch at times but it’s a rewarding and life-affirming experience.
Alis screens at Sheffield Doc/Fest.