Film Review of We Women Warriors: Tejiendo Sabiduria

In Nicole Karsin's debut documentary weaving provides a metaphor for the unity between indigenous people in Colombia whose communities and lands are threatened by violence and armed conflict. The film follows three women activists who assume leadership positions in their tribal governments to protect their community, customs, and lands - all of which are caught in the crossfire of civil wars and narcotics trafficking.

In 1991, the Colombian constitution recognized the rights of 102 different tribal groups in the country. However, these rights are being threatened by the armed conflict in Colombia that started in the 1960s over the narco-trade. The guerillas, whose activities are funded by the cocaine sales, moved to the mountains where the indigenous communities lived peacefully. The Colombian army pursued them into the mountains and paramilitary groups emerged to defend the wealthy against insurgents. As part of the war against drugs, the United States has given money to support the Colombian military in its effort to eradicate the insurgents and guerillas. Native peoples are caught in the middle of the conflict. More than five million people have been displaced because of the violence. Thirty-four indigenous groups are in danger of extinction. Frequently native people are accused of being insurgents and men, women, children and elders are executed, raped, and arrested. Their human rights are violated. Rarely are the aggressors brought to justice. Doris, Ludis and Flor Ilva belong to three different indigenous groups whose communities have been torn apart by guerilla warfare and military violence.

The documentary highlights the way women are affected by this violence. Many are left to raise children alone after their husbands are wrongly convicted of being insurgents. The men are often either imprisoned or executed by paramilitary groups without investigations or consequences. Women leaders have emerged in roles that were once only occupied by men to govern and organize their communities in the face of this violence. Flor Ilva is the first woman governor in 300 years of the Nasa tribe. Doris organized over 540 people who were forced to abandon all of their belongings and move to safety. These women leaders advocate for the peaceful evacuation of their lands from all military and paramilitary activity. They contend that tribal lands must be peaceful. They work collectively to create economic opportunities for women and for the community through weaving. Because of their dedication to the survival of their people and customs, Flor Ilva refers to the women weavers as "guerreras de pensamiento" [warriors of thought].

Karsin powerfully captures the ruin and destruction caused by civil war in this moving 80 minute documentary.

We Women Warrior will be screening as part of the 16th annual DocuWeeks. It premieres in New York at the IFC Center on August 10-16 and in Los Angeles at Lammie NoHo7 on August 24-30.

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