“After the 1970s, the representation of poverty became a true issue for Latin-American cinema. And that is why a film like Agarrando pueblo—of amazing relevance still today—is so significant. Better than any other, this film foresaw the requirements demanded by the world of power for portraying poverty as a spiritual export good destined for rich people throughout the world to take a peep at a poverty far detached from them.
Some may say–and rightly so–that this film made by Mayolo and Luis Ospina remains current today, no one can refute that; representation of poverty still convinces, touches, and is good to get funds. This is still going on now, decades later, just as it did in 1978. Perhaps nowadays there are a few differences, things that back then would have been completely unconceivable. Back in those days it was enough to simply show Latin-American people as the destitute children of universal dearth. The idea was to establish a glance which would raise a high dose of pity and some pretended moral outrage.
And though the current political relevancy of Agarrando pueblo is completely out of the question—the pornographic depiction of poverty has established a recognizable aesthetics of its own—the true genius in this classic film of disobedience lies on the way it questions filmic representation as such. By establishing a separation between a documentary register in black-and-white and another one in color—supposedly, this latter is the film being shot by some Colombian filmmakers for a German TV channel—Mayolo (and Luis Ospina) gobble up this divide in their own film and saturate the devise right to its chore. An extreme close up on Mayolo’s eye peeping through a hole becomes a pivotal point and first warning about the intrusion of fiction in the realm of documentary (and vice versa); this shot is followed by the arrival of a remarkable character who not only reacts to the fraud committed by the fabrication of an aesthetics of poverty but also introduces himself as a sign of the destitution of any principle of purity in any form of representation. To film and to represent always entail an arrangement of truth following an order built upon elements rooted in the collective imagination. In this sense, the participation—at the end of the film—of a homeless man (real or not) alters the epistemological contract between the viewer and what is being presented on the screen. However, this is no hindrance for glimpses of truth being shown through the way the staging of the farce is put into action.
An undisputed master piece of political cinema, it shows a humorous lack of political correctness, as well as an impious discourse and a formal finesse which are normally absent in both satiric and denounce films. An example of it are the decisions in terms of the frames used throughout the film’s last sequence, which represent a whole introduction on the subject which any aspiring filmmaker should take into account.”