An Adventure To Learn Spanish in Medellin, Colombia

10645003_10152493294950819_6978685651787515337_nEarlier this year, I went on an adventure to Colombia, in order to better understand the Latin culture and some of the elements that are used in Latin American cinematography.

While not directly related to Figueroa (who is Argentinian), my experience in Colombia was absolutely fantastic.

One of my main objectives while I was there was to improve my Spanish. Since I’m a cinematography student with a focus on Latin American film, I’m actually kind of embarrassed about my very, very basic communication skills!

Arriving in Medellin

Never having been to Colombia before, i wasn’t quite sure what to expect. All of my American friends and family seemed to think of it as one of the most dangerous countries in the world.

You want to go where?

They would ask. And Medellin has to be the worst of all, what with images of drugs and Escobar, random street shootings in the middle of the day, and all of those other lovely stereotypes we have.

Needless to say, I was a little nervous, but when I arrived I realized that, while the country still has its troubles, it is spectacular, and a budding gem in Latin America. Medellin, in particular, has turned itself into the best educated region in the country, and has done wonders to improve the status of its citizens.

Read this interesting article from The Guardian for more on how Medellin improved itself.

Immersion Spanish Classes

10351530_10152644397105819_9104207976311078107_nOnce there, I actually ventured just outside the city to take my course, and wound up getting my Medellin Spanish classes from a little farm just outside the city, called Eco Hostel Medellin.

Paola, the owner, was absolutely fantastic. It was a month long intensive program, with several hours of study in the morning, and even an opportunity to learn permaculture in the process!

The “farm” isn’t what we’d think of as a farm, but rather a very large garden on her hectare (2.5 acres) of land.There’s a wonderful climate, spectacular mountain scenery, and not too many bugs!

Our Spanish classes were divided into two groups, for beginners and intermediates. I was surprised to find myself in the intermediate group! With 3-4 hours of class a day, plus study time and the encouragement to speak Spanish as much as possible with Paola and the other students, the full immersion experience was challenging, but rewarding!

My grammar and pronunciation improved tremendously, along with my vocabulary. I even learned some uniquely Colombia words, like “amaƱado” (to be content/happy) that are only used in that region!All in all it was a great experience, and I’m hoping it will help me with my film pursuits as well!

Figueroa The Pianist: An Unseen Side

jazz piano in filmWhat many people don’t realize about Lucas Figueroa is that many of the elements of his short films come to life because of the deep connection with all of the arts.

A true artist in every sense of the word, there is a deep appreciation and respect of beauty in any form that comes out within Figueroa’s work, and many attribute this to his own diverse background studying a variety of art forms.

In this post we’ll look a little deeper into his love of jazz and blues piano, an unseen side of the great filmmaker.

Jazz and Blues Form The Heart of Emotion

As any musician can tell you, one of the most passionate styles of music to play (and for this reason, one of the most difficult) is jazz and blues.

The reason is because this style of music relies heavily on the individual performer to improvise across standard sets of chords.

Given the framework, whether through a traditional 12-bar blues chord progression or any of the standard progressions from jazz charts, the performer must fill in the canvas of the music in the same way and artist must paint starting with only a blank page and an idea, or a filmmaker must envision the finished work of art, starting only with a few raw materials.

Figureroa’s work makes it clear that he has an intimate connection with these forms of art. Porque Hay Cosas shows how he can use concise motifs and references to other works, in the same way a jazz pianist would use a common blues lick to reference a style or other artist, in order to bring out a higher plane of understanding within the piece.

This has become increasingly prominent, with studies by NIH and John Hopkins by Charles Limb and other reknowned neuroscientists, to back up these intuitive artistic claims with real scientific data.

This is no common feature of short films. Most have a vague reference to other works, but nothing as targeted as those licks and themes brought out by Figueroa.

The reason for this is undoubtedly his true musicianship, and I would argue that if you have an interest in becoming a great filmmaker or artist of any type, you should study jazz.

While the study of any instrument or musical style is a life-long pursuit in its own rite, learning the basics of an easy-to-approach instrument, like jazz piano or guitar, can be extraordinarily beneficial to one’s artistic development in other fields.

Check out for more about finding piano lessons online or to learn how to play blues piano.

Or, look into for more on learning guitar.

I suggest these two instruments simply because unlike winds, the art of tone production comes more readily, which means you can more quickly get to the subtleties of performance and improvisation, which is the entire point of the study, if your main focus is not the instrument itself.

Lucas Figueroa meets Ayn Rand

One of the interesting things that strikes me, personally, about Figueroa’s work is the stark contrast it provides to Ayn Rand’s objectivist philosophy.

If you’re unfamiliar with the premises behind her philosophy, this video provides a brief introduction to OBjectivism.

Whereas Rand created Objectivism in order to portray the free-market capitalistic society as pure and wholesome, corrupted only by the politicians that attempted to limit the creation of wealth by the capable and distribute it to the less capable, in a manner akin to socialism, Figueroa’s work focuses primarily on the plight of the middle class, and attempts to reveal the extraordinary character of people Ayn Rand would consider quite ordinary and, perhaps, incompetent.

Take Boletos Por Favor, for example, in which the short takes place entirely on a train, and marks the differences and reactions against the conductor coming through to collect tickets.

Compared to Dagny Taggart, the railroad mogul and empress to a huge industrial fortune in Atlas Shrugged, the contrast between everyday and larger than life couldn’t be greater.

For more information on what I mean, you can download Ayn Rand’s Atlas Shrugged audiobook from Free Audiobook Guide, or check them out on Twitter.

By contrast, Figueroa presents a number of working class themes that raise the status of the commoner and the quotidian to new heights.
He champions the plight of the everyday, perhaps arguing that the real triumph of society is the ability to endure any condition with which it is presented, and for the vas majority of the population, that often means a dull, common routine.
For more information on Figueroa and his philosophy, check out the interview below:

Porque Hay Cosas Que Nunca Se Olvidan

porquehaycosasPorque Hay Cosas Que Nunca Se Olvidan, or Because There are Things We Never Forget, is a 2008 independent horror film by Argentinean producer and director Lucas Figueroa.

The movie starts off with a simple street scene, and a group of friends playing soccer. Then the ball falls into an evil house, and the terror begins.

The film is a short, requiring only 12 minutes to view the entire production, but within such a short time Figueroa is able to convey an immense association of fear and terror, while binding you to the principal characters and empathizing with them.

You can watch the full movie streamed from YouTube here!