Thursday, July 14, 2011

Copa America 2011: Bolivia

Entry #3 for the Copa America 2011 Book & Film Festival.

Book: Aurora by Giancarla de Quiroga

Giancarla De Quiroga’s Aurora uses a cinderella like romance story as a springboard to examine political and social changes that played a part in the Bolivian revolution of 1952. The wealthy landowner Alberto returns from Europe to find no shortage of suitors seeking to marry him. However, he ignores all the flashy girls and is instead smitten by young innocent Aurora at a party. He seeks her out and wants her to run away with him without getting married. At first, the thought of running away without marriage terrifies Aurora who proclaims it a sin. But her feelings for Alberto take over and she leaves her life behind to join Alberto at his hacienda. Their love blossoms and allows them to weather economic hardships to turn the hacienda into a profit making enterprise by using the land to grow and sell vegetables. At the peak of the hacienda’s profitable ways, Alberto starts to get disenchanted with his Bolivian life and yearns to return to France where he thinks his true joy resides. He wants to sell all his land and begins to neglect his surroundings just as Aurora opens her eyes to life around her. She begins to teach the native Indian peasants and workers to read and her act is in direct defiance to Alberto and society. Alberto’s health gets progressively worse but he is preoccupied only with escaping to France. Their love is on the verge of extinction but things take a dramatic turn when the revolution reaches their land forcing them to turn to each other for safety.

The book mirrors the political and economic change in Bolivian rural life from the 1930’s until the early 1950’s with the emergence of peasant uprisings. By placing the character of Aurora as a teacher of the peasants, De Quiroga has created a character that is in tune with the suffering and needs of the workers. On the other hand, the detached Alberto represents a rich land owner oblivious to the needs of his workers. Even when the truth about the worker’s condition is revealed to Alberto, he ignores facts and turns the other way. Eventually, his ignorant ways result in a fiery finale.

Film: Cocalero (2007, Alejandro Landes)

Bolivian films are not frequently seen in international cinematic circles but that does not mean that Bolivia is absent in cinema. In fact, the last few years have seen plenty of documentaries set up shop in Bolivia centered around Cochabamba (regarding water & privatization) or the Potosi mines while many books and articles have mentioned either the changing political face of Bolivia or coca leaves farming. So it seems very appropriate to view a film that manages to cover both political and coca discussions. Alejandro Landes’ Cocalero highlights the rise of Evo Morales and sheds light on the grass-roots movement that supported his election. The debate about coca leaves and farming is certainly forefront in the film as is the clash between the different classes in Bolivian society. As per the film, media bias certainly fueled hatred and fear of Morales. Landes’ camera does not shy away from depicting some of this bias and even shows some of the abuse heaped on Morales in the cities. Such documentation helps show the fine line between a person been treated as a hero by some and a villain by others. Basically, if a political candidate does not have the same governing principles as a group of people, he is demonized and represented as evil by the group.

Note: Interestingly, the film follows Morales to Mar del Plata for a conference attended by both Hugo Chavez and Diego Maradona. This is the same conference that Emir Kusturica filmed for the 2008 documentary Maradona by Kusturica. No doubt there were hundreds of cameras at the conference but it is fascinating that footage of one event shot from two different angles have been used in two separate films. In a sense, Landes' & Kusturica's films form a documentary version of the film Vantage Point.

Copa America 2011 Campaign

Bolivia started the Copa America in incredible fashion by holding hosts and favourites Argentina to a 1-1 draw. The tie gave Bolivia a reasonable chance of making the Quarter-finals especially since their second game was going to be against the U-23 Costa Rican team which only had 5 overage players. Surprizingly, Bolivia were brought crashing down to earth. Not only did they lose 2-0 to Costa Rica but also had two players sent off in a largely one-sided game where Costa Rica ran circles around Bolivia. Costa Rica found plenty of space behind Bolivia’s non-existent defense and could have had more than just their two goals. Bolivia’s elimination was complete even before the 30 minute mark in their final game with Colombia when Bolivia’s defensive weakness were exposed by Colombia as they raced to a 2-0 lead. A neat through ball by Colombia found Falcao behind the entire Bolivian line and he duly finished the chance in the 14th minute. He tucked away a penalty in the 28th minute after another defensive mix-up forced Bolivia to concede a penalty. In fact, Colombia did not have to exert themselves too much in the first half as Bolivia’s only chances to get a goal appeared to be via set-pieces. Overall, Bolivia could not muster a decent response and Colombia calmly progressed to the Quarter-Finals as Group A winners, while Bolivia finished bottom of their group.

Note: Evo Morales is a soccer fan as evidenced by Oliver Stone’s South of the Border so it was not surprizing to see him in the stands for Bolivia’s game against Colombia.

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