Thinking like a Mountain

Alexander Hick

Thinking Like a Mountain is a documentary film that narrates the present-
day struggle of the Arhuaco, an isolated indigenous mountain community
in Colombia’s Sierra Nevada whose traditional way of life has
been threatened by the armed conflict in Colombian and is now by the
ever-growing effects of climate change on their fragile environment.

Thinking Like a Mountain narrates the present- day struggle of the Arhuaco, an indigenous community who for centuries have lived in relative isolation in Colombia’s Sierra Nevada, The Arhuaco’s unique and formidable territory, which stretches from the snow-covered peaks of the Andes to the clear blue waters of the Caribbean has allowed the community to maintain their traditional way of life and unique belief system with very little outside influence. However in recent decades their ancestral lands have become a battleground and the Arhuaco have found themselves caught between Colombia’s drug-fueled armed conflict and at the mercy of global warming which is rapidly melting the Pico Simón Bolívar glacier, which is a vital source of water for the community and of immense cultural and spiritual significance to the mountain dwellers. For century’s the Arhuaco have carefully guarded their territory and few outsiders have ever been granted access to the area. This isolation has been crucial to the community’s survival for hundreds of years, going back to the Spanish conquest when the harsh terrain protected the population from the Conquistadores. However the inaccessibility of their lands turned against them as the armed conflict between the Colombian military and the FARC escalated. The remoteness and difficult terrain of the Arhuaco’s territory made it an ideal place for the FARC rebels to retreat to and evade military troops bringing full scale to the heartland of the Arhuaco community. This development has coincided with the continued increasing impact of global warming. The Sierra Nevada glaciers that constitute the Arhuaco’s principal source of water are some of the most vulnerable tropical glaciers in the world and the rate at which they are melting has accelerated dramatically over the last ten years. This rapidly changing environment has had an enormous social and psychological impact on the community who rely heavily on hunting, gathering and traditional subsistence farming. These severe issues have triggered debates among the leaders of the Arhuaco community as to whether their self-imposed isolationism is still viable and are faced with difficult decisions about how they will respond to the changing physical and political landscape.

How can places, inscribed with cultural significance, be reclaimed after they have been ravaged by military violence? What power does the image have in this struggle for social justice? What is the responsibility of the filmmaker to his or her subjects? Rather than attempting to answer these complex questions, Thinking Like a Mountain will present them to an audience in the voice of the of the Arhuaco and framed in a thoughtful and thought provoking manner.

With: Jwikamey Torres I José de la Cruz Torres I Mamo Bernandino Suarez I Norma Suarez I Tobía Chaparro I Rogelio Mejía Izquierdo I Margarita Villafañe I Nawingumu and family I Joel Norena Serna I Mercedes Torres I Mamo Efraín Torres I Cornelio Suarez I Bunkey Torres I Alfonso Suarez

Written and directed: Alexander Hick
Director of Photography: Immanuel Hick
Editing: Julian Sarmiento
Original music score: Christian Castagno and Nacho Drault

Producer: Anna Lozano, Alexander Hick
Consulting Producer: Maxim Holland, Gunter Hanfgarn

a cooperation of Flipping the coin Films and Hochschule für Fernsehen und Film

financially supported by 
FilmFernsehFonds Bayern and 
Freunde der HFF München.