In the last decade, many foreign companies have started to augment their filming operations here in Colombia. The reason for the increased presence of film projects in Colombia are many-fold; Colombia has many different shooting locations to offer in one country (jungle, the ocean, historic architecture and modern cities), Colombia’s weather allows for film companies to shoot during the whole year, the exchange rate to the US dollar makes filming in Colombia very accessible and the fact that security in Colombia has increased dramatically in the past decade (the US State Department has lifted warnings on Bogota, Medellin and Cartagena). The filmed productions in Colombia range from syndicated TV shows, to car commercials, to movies, such as the comedy El Paseo.
Perhaps, the most famous example of a foreigner “going Hollywood” in Colombia is Rudiger Kunze or “Rudi” as he is known to his fellow actors. Rudi has been in Colombia for the last 9 years and has appeared in several movies and TV programs. Included in the list are, “Mi Gente Linda, Mi Gente Bella,” RCN’s “Sin Retorno” as well as National Geographic’s, “Locked-Up Abroad.”
Rudi’s breakthrough performance in Colombian TV was a role he played as a homicidally-corrupt undercover cop. In his signature scene, he presses three Colombian hoodlums to get information about a crime that has taken place. While Rudi is interrogating them, he is simultaneously applying pressure to a deep wound in his left rib cage.
After getting no new information from the three thugs, Rudi quickly becomes frustrated with them. To make matters worse, Rudi’s partner is of no help to him as he sits and listens to an mp3 player with headphones on. After numerous attempts by Rudi to get his partner’s attention, Rudi’s patience runs out.
“The Russian mafia could sneak up behind you and drop and a bomb in your lap and you wouldn’t even notice you useless piss-drunk cop. Stand up you moron,” he states forcefully to the idle police officer.
Still no response from the police officer. Frustrated, Rudi pulls his sidearm out and puts a bullet in the other cop’s head.
“I guess it was just too hard to follow a simple command,” says Rudi after a hearty chuckle.
Seeing the declining state of Rudi’s regard for human life, the three thugs become even more agitated. They then ask Rudi, “What happened to your stomach?”
Rudi pulls up his shirt and shows them the damage. “I had a run in with some Korean gangsters, I guess they weren’t too happy about me dating one of their sisters. They put a CD in my ribs and I couldn’t get it out. Now I have a CD burner in my stomach.”
In a desperate attempt to escape Rudi’s demented peep show/Russian roulette standoff, they offer up their weapons at a discount price of a few thousand pesos in return for being set free by Rudi.
“Cheap price? For me, cheap means free. And besides, what would I want with a weapon that was involved in your crimes?” asks Rudi as he points his weapon towards the thugs.
“Don’t worry its clean,” replies one of the thugs, only half believing his own lie.
In the ultimate Jedi move of the century, Rudi offers to trade them the gun he just used to kill his buddy with for their gun. “I am doing you guys a favor by letting you go, now you do me a favor and help me get rid of this firearm,” he adds to cement the deal.
As they take the weapon from Rudi, they look down at the ground at Rudi’s dead partner.
“From now on, it’s time to dejar estos huevonadas (stop goofing off) and become men, thinking with a cool head,” Rudi tells them after they become the owners of his weapon.
“Gracias señor,” two of them reply as they cover the weapon with a T-shirt. The third, clearly unhappy (and in the minority) about being roped into this fool’s errand, throws his jacket to the ground as they walk away with the tainted gun.
Not content with merely acting, Rudi has recently opened up his own casting agency and is busily casting foreigners in all types of commercials, TV shows and movies. Many of Rudi’s actors recently got a chance to showcase their talent at an audition here in Bogota for an American TV show about drug trafficking (What a surprise). Rudi chose his most convincing actors for the casting call because of their legendary ability to insert famous quotes from movies like Deer Hunter, Jacob’s Ladder, Dude (Where’s My Car?) and Cape Fear into their dialogue without others noticing. This particular scene is between two former American soldiers who are planning to export drugs to Africa. The following is an excerpt from their improvised lines in the audition:
Robert: No way man, this is way bigger than that deal we did with the Sinaloa Cartel.
Brad: Yeah, this is big. This is my ticket out of this mess. Remember, every man must go through hell to find paradise. We do this job and it’s going to be nothing but beach volleyball, girls gone wild and jello shots – permanent vacation.
To try and sell his buddy on doing the job with him, the character “Brad” now acts even more sold on this “job” and is breathing more heavily while scratching the side of his face as he waits for the second actor to deliver the next line.
Robert: Are you ready?
Brad: Ready to be born again. You better make sure you are ready, you errand boy, sent by grocery clerks, to collect a bill. And don’t go getting scared of dying on me. If you’re frightened of dying and…you’re holding on, you’ll see masked spirits tearing your life away. But if you’ve made your peace, then the devils are really angels, freeing you from the earth.
This particular actor’s rendition of “Brad” was a gamble, and, unfortunately the part ultimately went to another of Rudi’s actors. Bad for him, good for Rudi. Thus, giving birth to Rudi’s second career as a casting promoter.
When the country of Peru is mentioned, one imagines a peaceful scene of an Andean alpaca grazing along an Incan stone wall. When Ecuador is brought up, we imagine a rain forest panorama of frogs jumping off branches while butterflies mate in the background. When Colombia is mentioned, we envision a post-apocalyptic city full of overturned buses, being pillaged by men in ski masks. It is obvious which country any rational person would seek to avoid while searching for an internet bride.
“48,000,000 Colombians Can’t Be Wrong” is a true adventure story about a 37-year-old socially-awkward man who decided that the best way he could deal with a life sentence of microwavable burritos and 10-hour Facebook marathons was to look online for a girlfriend in Colombia and then hop on a flight to Colombia’s capital in pursuit of a woman he has never met.
During his first month in Bogota, Brian falls in with two white, self-assured backpackers who the author describes as, “…not the kind of guys who pump the brakes before going through an uncontrolled intersection.” He is then nearly kidnapped during an encounter with a woman he met online, almost becomes business partners with a Korean man in the “diamond business” and is forced to sleep in the DVD room of his hostel due to lack of funds.
Brian quickly regroups after his first month and auditions for the part of “congressional aide” in a Colombian feature film called “Left To Die.” He then lands a job as a writer for an English-language newspaper where his first interview is with a “suspected undercover CIA agent.” Brian then gets thrown off a TV set for refusing to take off his shirt from under his police uniform. While Brian is not getting thrown off TV sets, he marvels at all the discarded construction materials Colombians throw into pot holes to lessen their depths. Because of this strategy, a bus going over one of these open trenches (full of construction materials) will occasionally sling a chest-high brick through a group of panic-stricken pedestrians.
Brian sincerely believed this trip would put him on a track towards a life of excitement, intrigue and exotic women, far from his increasing first world debt. Instead, he unexpectedly falls into a job as an extra in a Colombian soap opera, has panic attacks, watches other gringos lose their marbles and blows half his paycheck on bootlegged DVD’s. Along the journey, he chronicles his friendships, the deranged ex-pats he meets, and his struggles/triumphs, including one fateful night in a Israeli restaurant that would change his life forever.
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