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“IGUALADA” Beats the Odds in the Ultimate Underdog Tale

(Stephen Lovekin/Shutterstock for Sundance Film Festival)

By Patty Consolazio

This one’s for any person who’s ever felt put down, left out, marginalized, oppressed, alone, defeated, or just less-than. For anyone who doesn’t think they can make a difference. 

The film IGUALADA begins with a definition: “Igualada: a derogatory term (based on class, race, and sex) used to designate someone who acts as if they deserve rights and privileges that supposedly don’t correspond to them.

Deep in Colombia, young mother Francia Marquez stands before her neighbors and makes a plea for them to band together and prevent the right-wing paramilitaries from seizing their land for gold mining and development. “If this eviction starts here, it will lead to the eviction of the entire territory,” she points out. 

The men — young and old — listen to her, deep in thought. Then they speak up. 

“We’re risking our lives defending a land that is ours,” says one of the men. 

“We’re not leaving without a fight,” says another. 

“But you need to be aware,” Marquez reminds them that “those paramilitary groups don’t mess around.” 

They don’t. We watch as armed men announce over a loudspeaker to a large group of citizens, “Anybody caught disobeying our orders won’t have time to regret it because they’ll be dead.” 

We watch as those who don’t fight back canoe down the river with their worldly belongings perched on top — clothes, dolls, a mattress — to find a new place to live, where they will have to start all over, alone. 

We bear witness to mass funerals, where the mothers cry at the death of their tortured sons.

Then they march and sing and cry and chant, “Who will mourn our dead?” 

“As women, just seeing all those mothers crying, it was terrible, and very sad,” remembers Marquez. “Right there and then, I think that’s what made us say, ‘We have to stop this!’” 

“So it was that helplessness, that pain, that anger and emotion, that pushed me to make this plan public,” she said. “I want to be president of this country.”

Francia Márquez appears in IGUALADA by Juan Mejia, an official selection of the World Documentary Competition at the 2024 Sundance Film Festival. Courtesy of Sundance Institute. Photo by Darwin Torres.

Fast-forward to the world premiere of IGUALADA at the 2024 Sundance Film Festival on January 21. Director Juan Mejía Botero, film team members, and Marquez’s son were at the premiere for a Q&A with the audience. 

“I got a call from Francia, saying she was gonna run for president,” Botero recounts. “I didn’t think it was for real… but I said ‘K, if you’re gonna do this, let’s make a movie.’ She said no. So then we had to insist a little bit.

“And she said — I remember this very well — ‘They don’t make movies about women like me. Or communities like mine.’ [I replied,] ‘Let’s do it,’ and that was it.”

The crew had no idea how long the movie would be. Perhaps until they didn’t get enough signatures for her to run for president. Or maybe they’d be cut down by the establishment. But they kept on, and as one crew member mused, “It kept growing, and growing, and growing.”

IGUALADA is part of the Festival’s World Documentary Competition

To see more of the magic from the 2024 Festival, click here.