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23 February 2011

Call for Film Submission


Minority Rights Group International invites independent documentary filmmakers with experience in the NGO sector to tender for a festival/broadcast quality documentary film on how African-descendants are being adversely affected by conflict, land rights issues and resource extraction in Colombia.

To a brief decided in collaboration with MRG, you will produce, direct, shoot and edit a festival and mainstream broadcast quality documentary of about 20-30 minutes in length.

We are looking for a filmmaker to bring their unique combination of journalistic news-gathering and cinematic eye to cover an issue which is currently under-reported.

The documentary will differ from the usual NGO-commissioned film, in that it is not to be made about MRG’s work per se (i.e. you are not filming one of our projects to market MRG directly or for viewing by our funders), but instead about the issues faced by people we seek to support through our work. MRG is looking to produce a hard-hitting documentary that says something new about the issue, where your own creative input will be highly important.

Colombia has the second largest African descendant population in Latin America. Estimates of their numbers vary between 10.5 and 26%. African descendants are present in every major city in the country, although the majority live and traditionally hold communal titles to large areas of land in the Pacific and Atlantic coastal regions.

Despite government pronouncements touting improved national security, the 45-year-long internal armed conflict in Colombia continues to simmer and takes an increasingly heavy toll on African descendant communities, who are routinely caught in the crossfire between armed insurgents, illegal paramilitary groups and state forces.

Nearly 4.3 million people have been internally displaced in Colombia over the past two decades, between 200,000 and 300,000 per year. African descendants are disproportionately affected; human rights groups indicate that over 30 per cent (nearly 1.3 million) of those displaced are Afro-Colombians. Most flee to the already overcrowded slums on the outskirts of the country’s major cities, where they have scarce social support structures or means of subsisting.

Once these communities have been violently ousted from their fertile homelands, they find their land is then transformed by deforestation and elaborate infrastructure, such as highways and drainage canals, to make way for the cultivation of illicit crops such as coca and opium poppy, large-scale agro-business ventures, including palm oil plantations and beef cattle production or extractive industries, such as gold mining.

Despite the fact that Afro-Colombians have constitutionally protected rights to collective land titles and sustainable development, in reality the high level of impunity in the country and corruption in the justice system means that there is little meaningful regard for, or implementation of, those protections.
In order to assist in the preparatory research, we suggest the following sources:

Brief outline and purpose of the film:
The main purpose of the film is to bring to the forefront the situation faced by all too often invisible Afro-Colombian communities. It must illustrate how they are adversely affected by the internal armed conflict, international agro-business, bio-fuel cultivation and resource extraction, all of which lead them to be over-represented amongst the country’s internally displaced.
The filmmaker must choose an Afro-Colombian community affected by one or more of the above issues, and preferably a central character or family group from that same community, who will help the audience to understand this complex scenario. MRG has a strong commitment to expose how minority women often face multiple discrimination and would appreciate the film’s central character therefore being a woman.

The filmmaker must also highlight any positive stories – some communities have exposed links between paramilitary/state forces and agro-business or have succeeded in using the justice system to gain collective title to their lands.

The film must also look at how communities are affected by internal displacement. It should contrast rural life with urban survival faced by families forced to flee to city slums.

The filmmakers will work closely with MRG’s partners in Colombia, all of whom work closely with Afro-Colombian communities throughout the country in various capacities. They are Observatorio de Discriminacion Racial and Movimiento Nacional Cimmaron and AFROPA.
However, we leave it up to the film-maker to find the right balance between the general story and the current specific situations, as well as which particular issue they would wish to focus on.

Owing to the nature of the subject and context within which the filmmakers will be working (remote communities accessible only by river, tropical climate, security concerns for those appearing in the film and filmmakers, and potential necessity to interact with armed actors) MRG will apply the following criteria when short listing submissions:

At least one member of the team must have fluent Spanish and English
Experience of film making in a conflict zone, preferably in Colombia
Experience of film making in extreme environments
Experience of working with grass roots NGOs
Sensitivity to security concerns of both film crew and those appearing in the film

In depth knowledge of Colombia
Experience working with minority communities

Approximately € 18,000 is available for the film.

To apply:
Please send us:
1. An outline of your approach to the story, which should be around 500 – 800 words and include: any background you think might inform the story (three key points of what makes this newsworthy), issues you think should be covered or might arise for Afro-Colombians in the region, and how the story might be filmed and framed in terms of narrative, style and approach.

2. Your Filmmaker's CV

3. A proposed budget for the project to include pre-production, production and post-production, which includes all costs (travel, per diem etc). Also a schedule covering days needed to film for this length as well as an editing schedule.

4. Three copies of a showreel on DVD and/or links to your film work online, to be sent to: Carl Soderbergh, Director of Policy and Communications, Minority Rights Group International, 54 Commercial Street, London, E1 6LT or by email to
The deadline for applications is 11 March 2011

The film is being produced as part of MRG’s Minority Voices Programme which is funded by the European Union.

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