Charles Olsen

Poetry and Film in Colombia

A New Zealander drawn to Colombian poetry films? Having interviewed filmmakers of Spain and Portugal for the book The Poetics of Poetry Film (Sarah Tremlett (Ed), Intellect Books, 2021), I recently became interested in what was happening in the country of my partner, the poet Lilián Pallares from Barranquilla. I began trawling international poetry film festivals, platforms such as YouTube, Vimeo and Instagram and asked for recommendations. 

I found animators responding to poets, poets using video to reach new audiences, using AI software to create texts and process images, and those who began projects during the confinement of 2020, either because they had time to dedicate to personal projects or as a way of responding to the situation. There are also collaborative works, and festivals creating bridges between poets and filmmakers. Here are two pieces where we can appreciate the rich and diverse ways of bringing together image and poetry. 

La vuelta al mundo en postales de amor (Love in Nine Postcards around the World) (2015) 8 min.
Animation and text: Ana María Vallejo

In Love in Nine Postcards around the World a couple communicate by letter while she travels for work. Ana María Vallejo’s images and Fabio Viana’s soundscape reflect the distinct visions of the protagonists. Ele’s world is subtle with soft, natural textures in contrast to the raucous world of bright colours and city rhythms from where Ese writes. It is a piece to watch again to catch the details: a moggy’s purr giving way to a jaguar savouring the chaotic city or the analysis of botanical samples beneath a magnifying glass and the search for meaning in the letters. 

During her Masters at the Bauhaus University, Weimar, Ana Maria encountered animation as a means of expression and began working with poetry. She tells how leaving Colombia was important in the film’s development: ‘It is affected by this experience of beginning a new life in another country, of leaving relationships and friends behind, and especially the nostalgia for how things were.’

Hojas (Leaves) (2019) 2.24 min.
Animation: Camila García, Haiku: Francisco Dieguez

In Leaves, animator Camila García has fun with botanical details to create this sensuous piece. The simplicity of the format, a leaf or branch on a paper background and the subtle sounds that accompany the graphical treatment, create a contemplative atmosphere. The sound of wind and movement of the first branch allude to Francisco Dieguez’s haiku but from then on, the focus is on the stillness of each leaf. 

Camila uses poetry as one tool among many, introducing literary quotes, a section of music or ambient sounds. We see this in Las puertas de la percepción (Doors of Perception, 2018) where, with animated photographs of doors and barred windows from Mexican and Colombian cities, we enter a meditative world. Poetry is something she ‘finds along the way’. Her films start with ‘the contemplation of objects, places or photos’ and she aims to fuse the arts, animation and literature, each ‘preserving its identity’.


Sometimes poets praise the purity of the word and see the audiovisual as a foreign and tainted place, but there is an increasing number of poets and filmmakers who want to investigate the relationship between these worlds. Medellín Poetry Festival included videopoems in the First International Experimental Poetry Exhibition in 2001, directed by Angye Gaona. Although the festival has more than a thousand videos of poets in its Video-Anthology, I found no poetry films there. In 2013, Lilián Pallares and I participated in PoeMaRío in Barranquilla with a ‘recital of visual and textual poetry’.

In the audiovisual world, there is a wider acceptance of the medium. Experimental film festivals such as CineToro (2020) featured the director and poet Victor M. Gaviria and ran Écfrasis – Cine y poesía (Ekphrasis – Cinema and Poetry), which facilitated exchanges between filmmakers and poets in Brazil and Colombia. Online, Moebius Animación has essays and experimental cinema from twenty-nine countries, mostly from Colombia, including Camila García and Cecilia Traslaviña.

Ana María Vallejo has since been coordinating the project El canto de las moscas (Song of the Flies), which invited Colombian artists to create animations inspired by 24 songs by Maria Mercedes Carranza. Fragments can be seen on Instagram @elcantodelasmoscas and it has become a multi-channel video-installation with the films looped to represent the violence in Colombia over decades. The project has been now been completed and was shown in the Bogotá Short Film Festival this December. The new trailer can be seen here:

Ana María Vallejo confirmed what I had begun to realise as I started this article: ‘In Colombia the genre is very new. It wasn’t easy to find people who work in poetry film.’ I hope this sample is both an opportunity to get to know the poetry film coming out of Colombia, and an inspiration for those who want to investigate this world, be they poets, filmmakers or spectators. 


The Colombian Edition of The London Magazine is out now and available from our online shop. Published in anticipation of next month’s Hay Festival in Cartagena de Indias, this issue will be followed by a Spanish language version, out in January 2022, in Colombia and the UK.
Cover image: Ritual (Pescadores), oil on canvas, 100x150cm (Pedro Ruiz, 2010)


Charles Olsen (New Zealand, 1969) is a poet and artist. In 2018 he received the III Beca Poético SxS Antonio Machado and in 2017 the XIII distinction Poetas de Otros Mundos from the Fondo Poético Internacional. His latest collection of poetry is Antípodas (2016). His poetry films have been selected for international festivals and featured in Moving Poems, Poetry Film Live, Atticus Review and Blackmail Press. 

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