“The Kings Of The World” And The Social Responsibility Of Cinema

An interview with Carlos Andrés Castañeda, who plays Rá from "Los Reyes del Mundo", has sparked controversy over the alleged irresponsibility of the natural actor by Laura Mora, director of the film.

Still from the movie 'The Kings of the World'

Photo: Netflix

LatinAmerican Post | July Vanesa López Romero

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Leer en español: “Los reyes del mundo” y la responsabilidad social del cine

Since its premiere in October last year, "Los Reyes del Mundo" has not stopped being recognized as one of the best and most important films in Colombian cinema in the last ten years. This recognition only increased with its launch in January of this year on the Netflix streaming platform, where it managed to enter the top of the most viewed. The film has been praised for its brilliant execution in the direction and for the impeccable work on the part of the natural actors who star in the film, but also for portraying the post-conflict in Colombia, a relatively recent phenomenon in which the violence inherited from so many years of conflict.

Also read: Goodbye 2022!: These are the 10 Latin American films of the year

Despite the good reception from both critics and the public, recently the film has been the focus of discussion on social networks and Laura Mora's directing role has been criticized. The controversy began on January 28 on Twitter, where a video was shared by the Colombian media To The Point in an interview with Carlos Andrés Castañeda, a natural actor and protagonist of the film, in which he supposedly assured that after the success of "Los Reyes of the world”, received threats from armed groups and had to leave his home to move to Medellín, where he currently sells sweets on the streets to survive from day to day. The video was downloaded the same day and there are no fragments of it anywhere, which has caused the discussion to be based on assumptions since it is not known exactly what the actor's words were.

Divided opinions

Given Castañeda's alleged statements, two opinions have been unleashed in broad strokes: on the one hand, Laura Mora is criticized for an irresponsible position when hiring natural actors, using them for commercial purposes and then leaving them to their fate; On the other hand, there is talk that the State and the justice system are responsible for Castañeda's situation and in that order of ideas, that Mora has no responsibility for the actors who worked with her in the film. To the first position has been added the discussion about whether the film is part of pornomiseria cinema, in which the misery of marginalized individuals and groups is exposed to generate fascination and regret on the part of the viewer, beyond contributing to a critical look.

These opinions are problematic because, beyond being based on assumptions, they show two sides of the coin. In the first place, we find a look that accuses Mora in its entirety and demands financial responsibility for its actors after the production has already finished. This is an accusation that not only falls into what he denounces by diminishing Castañeda's agency for belonging to a lower class (which is indeed falling into pornomiseria), but also seems to mother Mora, hoping that she will answer for facts like the one that Castañeda is supposedly passing.

Secondly, it removes any responsibility that the director may have and the ethical duty that any film production must undergo, especially one in which natural actors work and that represents this type of theme. Although the responsibility for a forced displacement of Castañeda should be taken by the State and the justice system, the production team, and not only Laura Mora, must watch over, or at least be interested in, the well-being of everyone who is part of it. of the film, both on camera and off.

What is the social responsibility of filmmakers?

Cinema is an art that is often used to denounce social injustices or simply portray them, as is the case with "Los Reyes del Mundo", and this means that, just as it is willing to occupy this position, it must also be willing to take social responsibility. In this sense, the commercialization of a type of product like this will not only serve to show reality but will also generate profits, which must be distributed fairly.

Considering that the production worked with natural actors, it is necessary to discuss the role of action without harm, an approach that seeks to approach marginalized communities without causing damage or putting those who are part of it at future risk. This is used for field studies, but its use for cinema that works with natural actors has also been discussed. And it is that in this sense it is necessary to delve into how cinema is made with social responsibility, especially when seeking to work on social issues. Undoubtedly, this could be an excellent opportunity to discuss how both the State and audiovisual productions should play an active role in these situations. But it is good to remember that those responsible for the violence, shortages, and conflicts that are experienced in Colombia are not the people who make movies and who bring a silenced reality to be visible. In this sense, they do not have to play the role of saviors, but rather companions.

Laura Mora, for her part, declared on January 30 during a conversation with Ricardo Chica within the framework of HayFestival 2023, that since the beginning of production, the natural actors of the film have been accompanied and that their careers It has been built from an almost radical relationship with the responsibility that he has as a filmmaker when making films with social content.

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