Last night was the NYILFF one-time screening of PVC-1 directed by Spiros Stathoulopoulos starring Daniel Paez, Merida Urquia and Alberto Zornoza. Set in Colombia, this documentary-style film records a horrifying act un tanto enfermizo performed by members of a terrorist network to a poor Colombian family. Shot in real time and without any edits for 85 continuous minutes, this impressive film was one of the most talked-about at the 2007 Cannes Film Festival.
The film provokes a mixture of feelings in the audience from confusion to fear to inexplicable laughter, but in its totality the film’s in-your-face reality also produces uncomfortable sensations of silent desperation and panic. It was impossible to leave your seat when the kidnappers put on their masks and take their guns and machetes to break into Simon (Daniel Paez) and Silvia’s (Merida Urquia) modest house in the outskirts of Bogotá. Questions like y que va a pasar ahora? When the secuestradores place a bomb collar on Silvia’s neck while requesting, to the family who they mistakenly think to be rich, a ransom of $12 million pesos, which the family does not have even a minimal part. After everything seems to return to normal once the kidnappers’ loud threats vanish as they leave the house, desperation escalates as Simon picks up a radio cassette in which the terrorists explain Silvia’s inevitable fate as she is transformed into a human time bomb. Now, all the family can think of is that there is no time to be lost. When their attempts to remove Silvia’s bomb collar with cooking oil fail, the family embarks on a quest to find other alternatives before it becomes too late.
The 85-minute single take becomes longer as we all silently await for the family’s future. Will Silvia’s agony end with a happy Hollywood story or will the inevitable occur? From its beginning until its end, PVC-1 introduces us into a world in which we, as audience, infiltrate into the lives of the characters. The absence of soundtrack produces an eternal, annoying silence that allow us to feel as if we are inside the shooting. This audience-participant component helps viewers sentir en carne propia the premise of this dramatic episode. The symbolism of the family’s religious possesions like el rosario (rosary) seems to suggest that in times such as this there is always room for faith.
PVC-1 is a significant example of the sad and cruel reality that many Latin American countries face, when the poor often become desperate and thirsty for money as they struggle for survival; and in this struggle there is always a high cost to be paid. As we embark on movements to spread peace and end injustice around the world, especially in Colombia after Ingrid Betancourt’s release, the film’s end will leave you hanging with a bitter taste en la boca and a heart full of false promises.