The animated film el arbor del amor (The Tree of Love), created as part of a Bournemouth University (BU) research project telling the stories of ex-child soldiers in Columbia, will be screened as part of the Changing the Story Online International Film Festival between 1 - 5 June.
The festival is part of an Arts and Humanities Research Council (AHRC)/Global Challenges Research Fund (GCRF) funded project led by the University of Leeds and el arbor del amor will also be competing for Best Film.
The film was produced as the main output of a BU GCRF funded project: 'Children of the Revolution: Animating the lives of ex-FARC Child Soldiers to promote peace and reconciliation in Colombia'. Working with young people embroiled in Colombia’s civil conflict, the project team aimed to understand the suffering caused by the conflict through listening to their experiences of violence and forced recruitment.
While the characters in the film are fictional, their stories are real – constructed from 25 testimonies from former child combatants and young survivors of conflict in the remote indigenous Nasa reservation of Jambaló, Cauca in southwestern Colombia. The children who participated in the project created the narrative and the animations used in the film.
One of the research team, Dr Karen Fowler-Watt explains: “The importance of listening is central to our animated film. We devised the concept of ‘story listening’ as opposed to ‘storytelling’ to capture the way in which the film’s narrative developed to present a collation of the animated stories of the young people from Colombia’s indigenous Cauca community, who were caught up in conflict – several as child soldiers. Our mantra is that the animation represents Their stories. Their voices. Their animation!”
In September 2019, the young film-makers travelled to Bogotá to screen the film and to share their stories of lived experience with the Colombian Truth Commission, which is investigating the 55 – year civil conflict. After the visit, the Commission accepted the film as official testimony.
Now screening at the Changing the Story Online International Film Festival, the film has the opportunity to reach a wider audience – allowing the children and young people to tell their story in their words to even more people. The Changing the Story project supports the building of inclusive civil societies with, and for, young people in post-conflict settings and the festival will showcase the artistic work of many often-silenced groups.
Dr Fowler-Watt said: “It is a great honour to be included in the online film festival. The Changing the Story project is doing so much to raise awareness about how we tell the stories of others and the importance of listening to marginalised voices, so that their voices can be heard.”
The research team is comprised of members of the BU’s Centre for the Study of Conflict, Emotion and Social Justice: Stephen Jukes; Karen Fowler-Watt; Paula Callus and Stephanie Schwandner-Sievers, as well as former BU colleague Mathew Charles, who is now a research fellow in the Faculty of International, Political and Urban Studies at El Rosario University, Bogotá.
The trailer for El arbor del amor is currently available to watch via Global Voices where it is possible to read more about the making of the film, which will be online after 6 June here.
You can see more about the Online International Film Festival here.
Find out more about the work of the Centre for the Study of Conflict, Emotion and Social Justice here.