Of all the hellholes in the world, El Cartucho, in the Colombian capital Bogotá, was perhaps the worst. In the 1980s, the colonial neighbourhood of solid middle-class houses degenerated into the fiefdom of a drugs gang. The streets became the backdrop to a flourishing trade in drugs, people and garbage, crack houses sprang up all over and life wasn’t worth a damn.
This sensitive urban portrait paints a gripping picture of El Cartucho, as well as the DNA of a problem. In 2000, the neighbourhood was bulldozed to make way for Tercer Milenio Park – an expanse of concrete – in an attempt to eradicate history in one fell swoop. But guess what: it didn’t work. Director Andrés Chavez, who trained as an urbanist, switches between archive footage from the 1980s and 1990s, images as rough as the streets were back then – and the clinical present. It seems the tens of thousands who died in El Cartucho are not silent in their graves.