La Sierra

June 9-23, 2005

Around Memorial Day in New York, it’s not unusual to hear cinephiles say they’re excited about the upcoming Human Rights Watch International Film Festival (HRWIFF), and then catch themselves. Of course, they add, they’re not implying there’s anything exciting about the tribulations seen in the films. This ritual disavowal of schadenfreude is charmingly unnecessary, but it suggests something about how it is both always a good time for the Festival and never a good time. It is always a good time for one of the city’s most unreservedly cherished film events, the 16th edition of which ran from 9 to 23 June at the Film Society of Lincoln Center’s Walter Reade Theatre. Yet it is never a good time in the sense that the political struggles it reflects are invariably so dire. Indeed right now, with Gulf War II stretching into year three and its perpetrators Bush and Blair recently recertified at the polls, it seems an especially bleak moment. A prevalent and well-founded cynicism currently envelops the discourse of human rights itself, flowing from the chasm between the rhetoric of human rights bandied by the imperialists – to retroactively justify the Iraq invasion after all other pretexts have crumbled, for example – and the reality of atrocities committed by same. Less than a year after US torture at Abu Ghraib was exposed, the authors of this policy have been rewarded rather than held to account, with Alberto Gonzales upgraded from White House counsel to Attorney General in the second Bush cabinet. Officially sanctioned barbarity continues at US military camps in Guantánamo Bay, Afghanistan’s Bagram Air Base, and secret prisons around the world. And still more mind-bending revelations continue to surface, most prominently the “extraordinary rendition” program through which suspected terrorists are kidnapped and shipped to US client states such as Egypt, Syria, Morocco and Uzbekistan to be flogged, raped, electrocuted and boiled alive (1).

The films in HRWIFF make a fine antidote to this cynicism. The Festival’s programming typically clusters around geopolitical regions corresponding to the many areas where Human Rights Watch, the sponsoring NGO, conducts its work. Within this aegis thematic strands often emerge, and in this year’s edition there was an unnamed yet pronounced emphasis on youth, from the three children’s portraits in Living Rights (Duco Tellegen, 2004) to the closing-night Boys of Baraka (Heidi Ewing and Rachel Grady, 2005). Mardi Gras: Made in China (David Redmond, 2004) contrives a virtual encounter between teenage indentured labourers in a bead factory in Fuzhou, China and the equally young revellers at a New Orleans Mardi Gras, laden with the disposable product of this labour – a clever exercise even if a softer target than drunken weekenders is hard to imagine. The HRWIFF youthquake even encompassed Joana Mitic, the 12 year-old autistic squatter of the Serbian postwar reconstruction drama Midwinter Night’s Dream (Goran Paskaljevic, 2004), as well as the subjects of the two films discussed in detail herein.

Building on previous editions, HRWIFF presented another strong selection of Latin American films, including the opening-night State of Fear (Pamela Yates, Paco de Onís and Peter Kinoy, 2005), the Brazilian criminal justice documentary Justiça (Maria Ramos, 2004), the reflexive Peruvian doc Compadre (Mikael Wiström, 2004) and the Argentinean drama Una de Dos (Alejo Hernán Taube, 2004). Foremost among these, Scott Dalton and Margarita Martinez’s La Sierra (2004) tells us from its first shot that we are in for a tale of woe: a freshly slain young man is fallen in a leafy roadside ditch, clad in a blood-soaked t-shirt and shorts, his left leg twisted at an awful angle around his pelvis. Relatives and friends appear, shooing away the flies and cradling his form as bystanders quietly gather to inspect the by-now familiar scene. The young man’s girlfriend appears, sobbing inconsolably, attended by a knot of stricken friends as a crowd of mostly graven-faced children looks on. Thus Dalton and Martinez introduce their portrait of the eponymous La Sierra barrio on the ragged outskirts of Medellín, Colombia’s sprawling industrialised metropolis and long the epicentre of its drug trade, primarily servicing US demand. A year in the life of La Sierra, a settlement of humble cinderblock dwellings latticed by narrow steps hewn from the steeply sloping emerald hillsides, is chronicled through the fortunes of three young people enmeshed in one of the illegal paramilitary factions that effectively control 70 percent of the city. Dalton and Martinez use tightly scripted expository intertitles over temporal transitions, and to deliver their précis at the film’s opening: “The forty-year-old conflict has slowly moved from the jungles to cities such as Medellín, where urban gangs aligned themselves either with leftist guerrillas or right-wing paramilitary groups. In January 2003, when filming began on this project, these rival factions were fighting for control of the poor hillside neighborhoods of Medellín.”

Our three young protagonists are Edisón Florez Ocampo, the 22 year-old commander in La Sierra for the Bloque Metro, a militia aligned with the paramilitary confederation Autodefensas Unidas de Colombia (AUC), as well as the local incarnation of Super Fly, with six children by six different teenage mothers; Jesús Martínez, a 19 year-old midlevel soldier in Edisón’s command who lost his left hand while assembling a grenade; and Cielo Muñoz, a 17 year-old widowed mother, at the film’s outset the girlfriend of another incarcerated Bloque Metro thug. If they are unrepresentative in being uniformly mestizo or white, in many other ways their lives — and in one case, death — are emblematic of the self-perpetuating spiral of Colombia’s armed conflict, the largest in the Western hemisphere. Edisón relates how the current violence originated in the barrio some 16 years ago when his father, with a band of brothers, stoned to death the man who had killed his grandfather, instigating the cycle that threatens to continue with Edisón’s son Esteban, a budding militia grunt at age three. His family history suggests how local cultures of vigilantism, vendettas, organised crime and other social violence sustain, and are exploited by, the national civil conflict. Meanwhile Cielo, who fled her rural home in the sixth grade following the murder of her father and brother by guerrillas, embodies the plight of the desterrados, the hundreds of thousands of people forcibly uprooted by the violence, and the concomitant urbanisation of the crisis as thousands of the displaced funnel into cities like Medellín. Echoing Edisón’s boy, Cielo’s little one, a saucer-eyed tadpole in a hooded jumper, also pledges vengeance to his father’s killer. Only in Jesús, who at first appears the most unhinged and nihilistic of all, do we detect glimmers of hope, however faint, for some other life beyond the drugs, gangs and bloodshed.

La Sierra

La Sierra activates a complex circuit of identification, empathy and pathos. Explicitly constructing an external spectator through an opening vignette – Martinez hails a downtown taxi, asking the driver if he can take “us” to La Sierra – our desire to see, mirrored in the filmmakers’ attentiveness to the subjects, is generously reciprocated in Edisón, Jesús and Cielo’s own eagerness to be looked at. All are performative to varying degrees; indeed, Cielo is something of a professional performer, using her charm to peddle candies on buses, and by the end she is dancing in a “show bar” to support her son and herself. Edisón is conspicuously comfortable around the filmmakers, persuasively addressing the viewer and at moments enacting his persona in a strikingly overt manner. We see him calling on a 14 year-old girlfriend pregnant with another of his many progeny, delivering payment for an upcoming doctor’s visit; he hands her an envelope, then takes a step forward and smiles for the camera before it follows her inside. Later, while slow dancing at a nighttime street party, Edison’s eye catches the camera over his partner’s shoulder and, grinning furtively, he lifts a hand to caress her hair, self-consciously miming intimacy in public with the camera as stimulant. Even Jesús exerts a grim behavioural fascination through his disfigurement, as when he single-handedly loads a new magazine into his gun, cocks it, and fires a practice shot, dead center of a telephone pole (proudly pointing out his aim for the camera). If Jesús is sometimes too fried to extemporise coherently, the ennobling mise en scène – he is interviewed backlit atop a hillside with the barrio rooftops arrayed behind him, looking for all the world like Dino Zolje (Slavko Stimac) at the start of Do You Remember Dolly Bell? (Emir Kusturica, 1981) – strives to compensate for his meanderings.

The first film effort of co-directors Dalton and Martinez, La Sierra reflects an intrepid journalistic ethos and their familiarity with this terrain. Colombian native Martinez is a Bogotá correspondent for the Associated Press, and freelance photojournalist Dalton has covered the conflict over several years for US mainstream media clients. Appropriately, La Sierra’s chief virtue is its you-are-there immediacy and an unusual degree of proximity to the subjects, with Martinez eliciting candid testimony from the avowed young killers and their molls, and Dalton sprinting alongside Edisón and Jesús on armed sorties; when hostile fire inevitably rains down, you cannot but appreciate the risks incurred. The film’s fidelity to the experiences of Colombia’s urban poor also makes a welcome contrast to other recent documentaries on the conflict reflecting the subjectivities of the middle-class intelligentsia, as with Tomas de Guerra (War Takes) (Adelaida Trujillo and Patricia Castaño, 2002), or the managerial and governing elite, as in The Kidnapping of Ingrid Betancourt (Victoria Bruce and Karen Hayes, 2003). Yet La Sierra illustrates without illuminating, for its personality-driven focus on paramilitary adherents lacks the necessary contextualisation of the countervailing forces and interests. Early reviews have correctly pointed out the film’s elision of the conflict’s social dimensions (2). Variety observed that “La Sierra captures the seemingly hopeless and violent lives of Colombian youth… without exploring the causes and the political players fomenting the war itself”. The New York Times also noted that “the film avoids dwelling on the political stakes”, further claiming that the Bloque Metro are “fighting for no ideological reason but simply because it is what young men in their barrio do”. In this vein, the Miami Herald ventured, “Who the boys fight is not as important as who they are… the word ‘paramilitaries’ is but a label in a 40-year-old war that has long since disposed of ideology” (3).

The End of Ideology surely comes as news in Colombia, where in 2002 hard-right President Álvaro Uribe stormed the elections in a nakedly ideological campaign for heightened militarisation and draconian “security” measures, while violence of many political motivations continues daily. Even the kids in the film acknowledge this; Edisón says of the rival Cacique Nutibara faction, “We’re both paramilitary, but with different ideology”. Yet the Herald’s magical thinking serves to underscore the widespread confusion that persists about the conflict, certainly in the North American mind. This confusion – based in the real difficulty of apprehending a decades-old war riven with factionalism and porous boundaries between actors, and abetted by English-language reporting overwhelmingly favouring US interests – is what makes the film’s highly partial representation of paramilitaries so troubling. This partiality is evident in Dalton and Martinez’s predisposition to accept the subjects at their own valuation. In the first sequence with Edisón, we observe him on a dusk patrol, as he states in voiceover, “This is a real cause. It’s for my community, my barrio. It’s something I’m fighting for. Imagine if the ELN [Ejército de Liberación Nacional] guerrillas got in here. A lot of families would be forced to leave”, a stirring populist sentiment that belies the paramilitaries’ actual culpability for the majority of forcibly displaced civilians. Other self-serving claims such as, “The police say we shoot at them but that’s a lie, because when they come here the guys just run”, pass unremarked. Not until 50 minutes in does the film visually register the fact of innocent civilian casualties, with a brief glimpse of a middle-aged woman caught in the crossfire between Bloque Metro and Cacique Nutibara. The film cuts from her corpse being hoisted onto a stretcher to an only mildly ironic shot of Edisón playing video games at a corner bodega, as he comments in voiceover, “I don’t like to remember the dead, because it’s like looking at the past”. But when he slides smoothly from cavalier dismissal to narcissistic fantasy, musing, “Maybe this is my destiny… to fight for the land where my family and friends are. And for what’s not mine, too…”, the dissonance between the suave persona and what it stands for forces the viewer to reconsider not only who we are being invited to identify with but what purpose this identification serves.

As La Sierra progresses, the filmmakers’ unconditional empathy for their young protagonists shades into tacit approbation of the paramilitary perspective. This overly sanguine attitude becomes most problematic in its third-act treatment of President Uribe’s plan, announced midway through Dalton and Martinez’s shooting, to legitimise the paramilitaries through demobilisation and “reintegration” to Colombian society. In July 2003 Uribe’s government signed the Santa Fé de Ralito accord with the AUC, stipulating the decommissioning of its members by the end of 2005 in exchange for legal amnesty. Notwithstanding the absence of an approved legal framework and enormous controversy of which the film betrays no hint, the demobilisations have proceeded apace in periodic televised disarmament ceremonies intended to burnish the paramilitaries’ public image (4). One such event is excerpted in La Sierra, with scores of camouflage-clad milicianos ritually laying down their arms and ammunition vests on a low platform beneath a banner reading, “Reincorporación a la Civilidad” as a power anthem wails in the background. The film relates this unprecedented political shift to its characters through another spare intertitle, explaining that in November 2003 the Cacique Nutibara faction, which had subsumed the Bloque Metro, struck a deal with the Uribe administration to disarm in exchange for amnesty. This cuts to Jesús – seen clumsily trimming a miniature Christmas tree with a fellow stoned thug, reinforcing the celebratory mood – who enthusiastically says, “The government is giving opportunities you don’t see every day”. This opportunity is more accurately called impunity, which Uribe’s plan effectively grants to thousands of decommissioning combatants – an outrage even by the dismal standards of Colombia’s culture of impunity, wherein most violent crimes go unpunished. The Canadian scholars Cristina Rojas and Judy Meltzer have lucidly stated the issue: “The paramilitary forces are responsible for the worst human rights atrocities in the conflict… The notion of impunity for these crimes, particularly for the leaders of the paramilitary, is unacceptable, not only to the millions of Colombians affected but also by the broader international community” (5). Yet the issue is mooted for the film’s characters – Jesús is disqualified due to lost I.D. papers, and Edisón is killed by a Colombian army patrol – thus ensuring its obfuscation.

Among the film’s numerous ambiguities, none is more tantalising than the invisible role of Doble Cero, acknowledged only in the penultimate credit, when many in a screening audience have exited or a television viewer has flipped the channel. Doble Cero, a.k.a. “Rodrigo”, is the high commander of the entire 1,500-strong Bloque Metro paramilitary in eastern Antioquia department, a powerful right-wing warlord whose permission and cooperation decisively enabled Dalton and Martinez’s access to and mobility within areas that would otherwise have been sealed to outsiders. Why is so instrumental a figure mentioned for all of four seconds at the very end of the film? (6) Although many of the ethical questions that arise from La Sierra – about conditions of access, availability and selection of subjects, establishing rhetorical parameters – point back to Doble Cero, his influence remains a matter of speculation. But despite these issues, or perhaps because of them, the film still richly deserves to be seen, not least by audiences in the US, which in large part subsidises Colombia’s violence through foreign and military aid surpassed only by that to Israel and Egypt. Audiences here will have the chance this fall, when First Run/Icarus plans a theatrical release, no doubt hoping to recapture some of the Colombian immigrant audience that supported last year’s Maria Full of Grace (Joshua Marston, 2003) in a noteworthy run. One hopes, however, that future festival and cinematheque engagements will pair La Sierra with a complementary short like Juan Manuel Echavarría’s Bocas de Ceniza (2004), a compact, minimalist transcription of the self-composed songs of Afro-Colombian peasants who survived civilian massacres. Echavarría’s video is a devastating testament to those who have borne the heaviest brunt of the war, and an ideal counterpoint to La Sierra’s sympathy for the devil.

Given the abundance of teenage mothers in La Sierra, these sexually precocious kids would feel right at home in Lubbock, Texas, the setting of The Education of Shelby Knox (Marion Lipschutz and Rose Rosenblatt, 2005). A flat, featureless, urban agglomeration of the Texas panhandle, Lubbock has long been a bastion of puritan rectitude that until 1972 was the largest “dry” city in the nation, where the sale of alcohol was prohibited. Things have changed, somewhat. Education introduces Lubbock through a montage of neon-lit honky-tonks set to a rollicking pop-country number, as a realm of licentious excess. We first glimpse Shelby – a full-bodied bramble rose dressed to impress on a Friday night – malingering in a parking lot with a crowd of juvenile erotomanes, daring each other to strip atop a pickup-truck flatbed or lowering their jeans to moon the camera. Over such freeze-frame images, nifty scrolling captions inform us that Lubbock has one of the highest rates of teen pregnancy and sexually transmitted diseases in the US (the country as a whole has the highest adolescent pregnancy rate among the “developed” world). After the main credits, the film cuts to a teens’ pool party, where as we watch the bronzed, cornfed-looking kids splashing, flirting and making out, Shelby mentions in voiceover a freshman year rite called “Fuckfest 2000” and neatly summarises the prevailing sex/gender system in which girls vie for boys’ attention, and the boys try to pick off only the “10s” for sex.

The Education of Shelby Knox

A portrait of the policy wonk as a young activist, Education charts three eventful years in the life of Miss Knox, the virtuous daughter of white, middle-class Baptist Christian parents, following her through the completion of her high schooling. From certain angles Shelby’s heart-shaped face, framed by her thickly massed auburn locks, suggests a younger, stouter Kim Novak, and indeed the documentary is a thoroughly entertaining star vehicle. Anyone who has attended a public high school in the US in the last quarter century or so will instantly recognise Shelby. She is a good girl who hangs with the popular set but is really a grind, a compulsive overachiever who sublimates her adolescent libidinal energies into flawless academic and class-appropriate extramural pursuits (in this case, opera singing), trying harder and doing more than her status requires. Pallas Athena-like, Shelby is introduced fully formed and already politicised at the film’s beginning. One day, it seems, the contradiction simply became too great between the visible incidence of teen pregnancy – all those girls braving the school corridors in maternity jerseys – and the school’s unvarying answer of “abstinence only” to any questions about human sexuality. This has been official policy since 1995, when then-governor George W. Bush made Texas the third state in the US to adopt abstinence-only curricula (7). Exploiting the dramatic contrast between these sobering facts and Shelby’s home life, the film turns on the paradox that this virgin, who is seen pledging herself to chastity until marriage at a ceremony of the “True Love Waits” ministry, becomes fixated on sex education, and thus can’t stop thinking or talking about the very thing she’s vowed not to do (8).

Shelby uses her seat on the Lubbock Youth Commission to press for comprehensive, medically accurate sex education. Her bid for the committee’s chairmanship briefly devolves into a real-life rehash of Election (Alexander Payne, 1999), with Shelby’s opponent Corey Nichols as the ambitious, conniving Tracey Flick (Reese Witherspoon). The students’ spirited campaign to bring comprehensive sex ed before the Lubbock school board stirs the enmity of local Christian conservatives. The sequence in which Shelby innocently draws opposition fire demonstrates both the filmmakers’ particular felicity for being present to witness key dramatic moments, and offers one of several chilling glimpses into the climate of repression enforced by the Christian right. Shelby appears in the studio of a local Christian radio station, debating abstinence-only versus comprehensive sex ed. In plugging an upcoming Youth Commission-organised health rally, she mentions Planned Parenthood among other co-sponsors, and the born-again host, a rumpot demagogue, immediately cuts her off, blurting, “I’m just cringing over here”, and brazenly exhorts his audience to interfere in the youth event: “If you’re listening, and you’re a member of a church, or you’re a pastor… and you’d like to make a difference as well, just as Shelby would, then our churches should get involved with the Lubbock Youth Commission.” Soon afterward, Shelby is at home sitting down to a carry-out supper with her family in their cosy kitchen, when she gets a call from a scheduled rally participant, dropping out and citing Planned Parenthood’s involvement. Shelby puts the phone aside, muttering in best Valley Girl-speak, “Okay… that was really random”, which cues her parents to vent their misgivings about Shelby’s growing notoriety. The contretemps escalates into the Knoxes’ version of a fight (“This conversation needs to be over right now, because my head’s starting to hurt really bad”) and ends with the tearful lass crumpled on her bed, flanked by both elders and reciting, “God, family and country, in that order.”

If the weaselly Corey is a stubborn thorn in her side, Shelby’s true nemesis emerges in Ed Ainsworth, ironically the same figure who presided over her earlier True Love Waits consecration. In his twin capacities as youth pastor of Lubbock’s Church on the Rock and entrepreneur behind the educational seminar business Whiteheart Communications, Ainsworth delivers abstinence-only presentations to many thousands of junior and senior high school students nationwide. The seminars typically combine blatant fear manipulation – calling a male student forward and shaking his hand but clasping it inordinately long before launching into a rant about “skin to skin” transmission of warts and herpes – with distortions of medical data on condom efficacy, and such patently contemptible notions as “secondary virginity”. Weathered, vulpine and obnoxiously gregarious, Ainsworth at first comes across as merely creepy, stalking nocturnal parking lots and other teen hangouts, or thunderingly bigoted, proudly telling Shelby in conversation, “Christianity is the most intolerant religion in the world.” The ante is upped when, in junior year, the ever-more liberal Shelby starts to champion an officially banned gay-straight students’ alliance that eventually files suit against the Lubbock schools. Although the blossoming fag hag Shelby attempts to engage Ainsworth in a good-faith pastoral dialogue about homosexuality, when he discovers her socialising with the queer kids he turns malicious; it is strongly implied that Ainsworth summons the homophobic cavalry who arrive in Lubbock to picket the school grounds bearing saintly expressions and eye-catching placards (“AIDS Cures Fags”).

Education is seamlessly put together in the brisk idiom of nonfiction television and satisfying enough on those terms, even if the preponderance of “you go, girl!” moments tends to eclipse the actual setbacks and failures in Shelby’s path. The city retaliates against all the unwelcome publicity by yanking the Youth Commission’s purse strings, and they capitulate by dropping the sex ed campaign, resulting in Shelby’s protest resignation; the queer kids ultimately lose their lawsuit against the Lubbock schools. Indeed, the lavish focus on Shelby’s bildung, particularly her tiresome jousting with Corey, somewhat diffuses the motivating issue – millions of young lives endangered by a theocratically fuelled agenda. Although for HRWIFF’s purposes, Education is an excellent platform for the recent Human Rights Watch report “The Less They Know, the Better”, charging the Bush administration with violating young people’s rights to free, uncensored information about sexual health, contraception, condoms and other lifesaving measures (9). More broadly, the film has the advantage of topicality. Within days of its anointment at the 2005 Sundance Film Festival (for Gary Keith Griffin’s clean, quick cinematography), Bush’s second-term Secretary of Education Margaret Spellings – another slavering loyalist from his Texas governor’s term, who enforced the statewide abstinence-only policy – commenced what is sure to be a sustained assault on comprehensive sex ed. On her second day in office, Spellings launched a surprise offensive against public television, an institution reviled by neoconservatives, with a truculent letter to the Public Broadcasting System (PBS) boss Pat Mitchell, threatening curtailment of funding if an episode of the animated cartoon series “Postcards from Buster”, depicting make-believe lesbians in Vermont, were to be aired. The offending cartoons were obediently suppressed, but gratifyingly The Education of Shelby Knox was broadcast on 21 June over PBS as the season lead for the long-running documentary series “P.O.V.”, primed by its HRWIFF screenings.

The Education of Shelby Knox

Many have already rallied around Education, the film’s popularity neatly mirroring Shelby’s own. This broad appeal might be accounted for in part by considering the film’s operation as a liberal recruitment fantasy, the idea that those evangelicals in places like Lubbock aren’t all so bad, and that if a “person of faith” like Shelby can join the side of reason in the struggle for uncensored education and gay rights, then others can too. This comports beautifully with the calls for conciliation and “healing” that went up from so many quarters in the wake of last November’s ferociously contested elections, as the anguished opposition grappled with our defeat. Institutions of the soi-disant “liberal elite” like the publicly funded Independent Television Service (ITVS) and PBS, vulnerable to attack under the Republican hegemony, can spotlight Education as proof that the “public” in public television also includes religious conservatives. Yet Shelby is as demographically representative as she is politically unrepresentative; she is in Lubbock without being of it. The persona of the Baptist ingenue is at least partly enhanced by the filmmakers (for example, by omission of her junior-year volunteer stint with the wicked Planned Parenthood), and her imaginary life unfolds elsewhere. During one interstitial scene Shelby is primping in the bathroom mirror before stepping out for the evening, and describes in voiceover her dream lover, one of the few moments when she confides anything about her own romantic desires: “My fantasy boyfriend would be tall, have black hair and blue eyes, he would sing second tenor, and we would move to New York and sing the lead in Phantom of the Opera together.” This vision of a cultured urbanity – which also draws Shelby to the gay students as symbolic of an enlarged, cosmopolitan social sphere — redirects our attention to Lipschutz and Rosenblatt, the very embodiment of cultivated blue-state liberals, who must have seemed no less alien to the Christian conservatives of Lubbock than the queer kids. In interviews, Shelby has said that upon first acquaintance with the filmmakers she consciously supposed that as Jews they were destined for hell (10). Although the film never glances in the reflexive mirror, their impact on the subjects’ behaviour should be central to the discussions that will accompany the doubtless widespread educational and community use of the film.


  1. Jane Mayer, “Outsourcing Torture”, The New Yorker, 14 & 21 February 2005, p. 106.
  2. For example, that the overall disparities in Colombia’s distribution of wealth is most extreme in Medellín, where a majority subsist in poverty and criminal enterprise such as auto theft, arms dealing, money laundering and contract homicides, besides the drug trade, provides primary employment for youth. See Forrest Hylton, “The Occupied Territories of Medellín”, Colombia Journal Online, October 2002.
  3. Robert Koehler, “La Sierra”, Variety, 21 March 2005; Juan Forero, “Where Violence Reigned, Camera has Compassion”, New York Times, 19 April 2005; Steven Dudley, “Inside a mini-war run by shotgun-toting adolescents”, Miami Herald, 6 February 2005.
  4. Ana Carrigan describes the Cacique Nutibara’s disarmament ceremony in “A Farewell to Arms?”, In These Times, 19 December 2003.
  5. Cristina Rojas and Judy Meltzer (eds), Elusive Peace: International, National and Local Dimensions of Conflict in Colombia, Palgrave Macmillan, New York, 2005, p. 5. Nonetheless, “By June 20, Congress is expected to approve a legal framework [that] would let commanders, including those accused of war crimes, serve terms as short as 22 months. In return, they would accept the charges against them. But they would not be required to guarantee demobilisation of all their forces, confess to their crimes or reveal the workings of their organisations”. Juan Forero, New York Times, 5 June 2005, p. A7.
  6. His desire for anonymity isn’t hard to deduce. A former army officer from Medellín, Doble Cero led anti-guerrilla patrols before joining the Castaños, notorious founders of the AUC in 1989. But in September 2002 Doble Cero withdrew the Bloque Metro from the paramilitary confederation, and initially dissented from Uribe’s Ralito peace accord. See Scott Wilson, “Commander of Lost Causes”, The Washington Post, 6 July 2003, p. A12.
  7. An excellent overview is provided in Janice M. Irvine, Talk About Sex: The Battles Over Sex Education in the United States, University of California Press, Berkeley, 2002.
  8. The Southern Baptist Convention’s True Love Waits pledge holds, “Believing that true love waits, I make a commitment to God, myself, my family, my friends, my future mate, and my future children to be sexually abstinent from this day until the day I enter a biblical marriage relationship”. See www.truelovewaits.com.
  9. Human Rights Watch, “The Less They Know, the Better: Abstinence Only HIV/AIDS Programs in Uganda” (March 2005).
  10. Shelby mentions both her Planned Parenthood volunteering and her assumptions regarding Lipschutz and Rosenblatt in Rebecca Onion, “The Re-education of Lubbock, Texas”, AlterNet, 23 March 2005.

About The Author

Ioannis Mookas writes regularly on film for Gay City News.

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