May 18, 2014

Yuruparí: Los Filmes Olvidados

Colombia at Orphans 9 
by Pamela Vizner

Presenter: Juana Suárez (Proimágenes Colombia / Fundación Patrimonio Fílmico Colombiano)
Screening: Outtakes from Gloria Triana’s Yuruparí (FOCINE-Audiovisuales, 1983-86)

Less than a decade after the broadcast of this important documentary series, Colombia's national daily newspaper featured the headline "Yuruparí: Los Filmes Olvidados." The term forgotten films was a reference to the rediscovery that dozens of the original 16mm films had been left in laboratories in Miami and New York, where they had been sent for transfer to videotape. The story's lede aptly suggests the nature and value of what they recorded.
José Torres, an elder from Guapi, was one of the few people who knew the secrets of the ritual marimba of the Pacific Coast. Before he passed away, Torres narrated part of his secrets in front of the film camera, which for almost three years traveled around the country searching for manifestations of popular culture.  -- El Tiempo, March 10, 1991 <original Spanish publication here>. 
Yuruparí, or Yuruparý, is believed to be a word from the Tucano language, doesn’t have a singular meaning; “son of the fruit” or “son of the birds” are among its translations, which originated from the Legend of Yuruparý,a myth from the Amazonas and one of the oldest pieces of written literature of Colombia. The legend tells the story of Yuruparý, whose mother Seucý, a virgin, became pregnant after eating a fruit. Yuruparý becomes later the chief of the tribe, after living his whole childhood inside a magical tree, and changed the chaotic matriarchal society of the tribe for a patriarchal one, originated in the Laws of the Sun. Additionally, the Ritual of Yuruparý is an indigenous ritual of male initiation, in which young adolescents are officially welcomed to adulthood.

Yuruparý is then, in many ways, a synonym of a new beginning and rebirth. Gloria Triana, the director of the Yuruparí series couldn’t have chosen a better title. This documentary series was carried out in a Colombia that was still in search of a national identity. During the 1980s there was not an acknowledgement of the multicultural origins of the country. Thus, Yuruparí gave Colombians the chance to look at and rediscover themselves.

It is impossible to talk about the Yuruparí series without talking about its director, whose unique vision about culture and documentary style and its purpose in anthropological research would make an enormous impact nationwide. In her book Serie Yuruparí: 20 años, Ligia Echeverri describes Triana as “half scientist and half artist.”

Publicaciones de Proimagenes en Movimiento

Anthropologist, sociologist, and specialist in the production of ethnographic cinema, Gloria Triana is a pioneer in the research of audiovisual techniques and their use in scientific studies. Since she was very young she dedicated her vacations to traveling around the country, observing traditional celebrations, carnivals, dances, and music. She filmed her first documentary in 1975, Y Todos los Días Así, about the conflicts between everyday life and formal education inside low-income families, which was a turning point in the use of audiovisual materials in anthropological pedagogy. 
Triana with musician Pablo Flórez. (Foto: Vicky Ospina

Triana also organized several regional meetings about traditional music and dance, the Encuentros Nacionales de la Música y de la Danza Tradicional. Thanks to the success of this project, she was hired by the national communications company Audiovisuales, to work on a series of medium-length films to be broadcast on national television. She directed 35 of the films in the Yuruparí series, which were broadcast between 1983 and 1986, with huge success in attracting viewers. Triana used varying anthropological techniques, such as interview and participative observation, generally without a script.

Some titles in the series earned awards, such as Best Cultural Programs at the XXV International Film Festival of Cartagena de Indias 1985, the Simón Bolívar National Award to the Best Cultural Work on Television in Bogotá 1986, and Best Cultural Program at the II Television Festival 1985.

The Yuruparí series comprises 64 mid-length films, 35 directed by Gloria Triana. It was originally filmed on 16mm with ¼-inch magnetic audio track. Beginning in 2013, Fundación Patrimonio Fílmico Colombiano and Fundación Proimágenes led a project to digitize some of the original negatives. This followed the 2003 publication of the book Serie Yuruparí – 20 años, which includes information about the participants, the titles in the series, and full datasheets for each production.

Torres with López.. Foto: Pepe Romay

The titles chosen for digitization were Angélica la palanquera, Cantos y danzas de vida y muerte, Carnaval del Diablo, Farnofelia currambera,and Lunes de Feria, all from 1984. With the aid of cinematographer and restorationist Jorge Z. López, the original films were telecined and corrected, producing analog and digital access formats -- BetacamSP, DVCam, DVD, as well as the digital files stored on hard drives. (Read the full technical report from 2013 by Rito Alberto Torres, "Preservación por conversión del negativo original a formato digital de algunos documentales de la serie Yuruparí, (1982-1986)."

Fundación Patrimonio Fílmico Colombiano is an institution with the mission to preserve and conserve Colombia's audiovisual heritage and to facilitate access to these cultural assets.

-- Pamela Vizner


• "Yuruparí: Los Filmes Olvidados."El Tiempo, March 10, 1991,

Echeverri Ángel, Ligia. Serie Yuruparí -- 20 años. Gloria Triana: Tejedora de Sueños con los Hilos de la Ciencia. Bogotá: Fondo Mixto de Promoción Cinematográfica and Proimágenes en Movimiento, 2003.

• Torres, Rito Alberto. "Preservación por conversión del negativo original a formato digital de algunos documentales de la serie Yuruparí (1982-1986)," Fundación Patrimonio Fílmico Colombiano website (2013).

• Interview. "'La cultura debe integrar las regiones': Gloria Triana," El Espectador,  (Bogotá), March 28, 2012,

• APEX 2013: Bogotá website. A project of NYU MIAP's Audiovisual Preservation Exchange initiative.

• Cortometrajes Colombianos, website aggregating filmographic information about Colombian short films, particularly those known to have played at the Festival de Cine Corto de Popayán.  Datasheets for the following episodes of the Yuruparí series were posted in 2013 by jnesrc [Juan Esteban Rengifo]:
  • Bienvenido a la vieja Providencia (1984) 
  • Buscando el camino a . . . (1984) 
  • Carnaval del Diablo, I y II (1985)
  • Ay, si la guabina (1986)
  • Pilanderas, farotas y tamboras (1986)

• Fundación Patrimonio Fílmico Colombiano website,

• "Clips FT Gloria Triana." Canal Telecaribe (regional television channel, Barranquilla, Colombia) video, 14th Festival Folclórico de la Algarroba (2012), in Galeras, Sucre, Colombia. Uploaded by Humberto Jose, Jan. 7, 2012. (2:48)

Bonus track
At the moment, online video from Yuruparí films is rare. But here is a short clip from Los Sabores de mi Porro (Triana and Jorge Ruiz Ardila, 1985), documenting a performance by Pablo Flórez. 

All sources used for this article were originally in Spanish. All quotes translated by the author.