The Negotiators

A revolution has taken place in Colombia. After centuries of factional war, Colombians sat down with each other and engaged in an exchange of ideas, ideals and demands, rather than bullets. Using archival footage, reporting and intimate interviews with the peace talks’ protagonists, our film tells the story of four years of talks in Havana that brought fifty-two years of conflict to an end.

Making peace is harder than making war. This has been the story of the brutal 52-year civil conflict in Colombia— a story of 220,000 deaths, six million victims, three failed attempts at reconciliation, and the dramatic events that have finally brought peace within reach.

The FARC and the Colombian government had been at war since 1964. In the first attempt at peace, the FARC created a political party and 3,000 of its former militants were killed. In a later attempt, the Marxist guerrilla group used the dialogues as a foil to bolster its military power. When President Santos launched another peace negotiation in Havana five years ago, the country received the news with profound distrust. This documentary traces the unfolding, sometimes the unraveling, of that process-- the uphill climb to lead a skeptical society towards peace, the ferocious objections of former President Uribe, the reservations of FARC leaders themselves, who had seen so many comrades assassinated, and then the stunning reversal of a October plebiscite, in which a razor-thin margin of voters said ‘NO’ to a long-awaited peace accord.
The upset drew comparisons to Brexit and threw the government and its supporters into a funk. But then came a series of new twists.

Two men who revile each other – Uribe and Santos – met to discuss how to redraft an accord that would be palatable to more Colombians. Santos won the Nobel Peace Prize, bringing new momentum to the talks. And eventually, a new deal emerged from the ashes of the old one, and then congress approved it. The guerrillas moved into “concentration areas,” ready to hand over their weapons to the UN later this year, that is when and where I plan to end filming.
We are still not out of the woods. In 2018, Colombia will hold presidential elections and the accord will again hang in the balance. A lasting peace also hinges on whether the FARC feel they are granted a dignified way out of war, a way to reconcile their revolutionary ethos with the popular perception that they have descended into criminality.

This is a story not of Hollywood endings, but hard-fought hope, peace gained by inches. As Colombia’s peace process nears fruition, this documentary sends a message to the world that agreement can indeed be reached through dialogue. My greatest hope is that this project will also show Colombians what they have achieved so far, as they head into next year’s presidential election

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