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Local film spotlights Colombia struggles
Documentary will premier at 8 tonight
Michael Christmas, right, stands with Caleb Collier in a coca field in Colombia during one of their visits with the Give Us Names organization.

“Leaving La Floresta”

Documentary premier

When: Doors open at 7:30 tonight
Where: Historic Plaza Theatre, 1049 Ponce de Leon Ave., Atlanta
Cost: $10 plus tax
More info:

Give Us Names reception

When: Immediately following film premier
Where: Batdorf and Bronson Coffee Roaster, 1530 Carroll Drive NW, Suite 100, Atlanta
Cost: Free with ticket stub from the film

It is one thing to tell someone how bad a situation is, but it is quite another to show them.

Give Us Names organizers are using the premier of their documentary, "Leaving La Floresta" later tonight as an opportunity to show viewers how Colombian farmers are being displaced from their lands by the war on drugs.

The nonprofit was started several years ago by three North Hall High School alums — Michael Christmas, Owen Carroll and Zack Melette — and two friends.

They have been working on the documentary for nearly two years.

"The film premier serves as a launching point for us. From there, we're going on a 23-city tour. We'll be speaking at colleges, churches and civic organizations," Melette said.

"Our goal is to raise awareness on the issues we uncovered in Colombia. We also want to start projects on the ground in Colombia getting the displaced families onto new land, helping them to start their lives over and to start farming again."

The war on drugs isn't a new one. Then-President Richard Nixon is said to be the first person to publicly used the term in the 1970s.

What was news to the Give Us Names organizers was how much the war is affecting people worldwide. For many years, the U.S. government has given millions of dollars through Plan Colombia help the Colombian government curb the cocaine trade there.

Production of the coca plant, which is used to make cocaine, is a multi-million dollar industry in South America. When government officials find a coca field, the common response is to use crop dusters to spray herbicides to kill the plants before they can be turned into drugs.

The problem is that the poisonous chemicals seep into the soil and destroy the land of honest farmers growing crops like coffee and bananas to support their families.

Since their land is useless, the families have to abandon the countryside to head into cities for work. More often than not, the displaced families find themselves in city slums.

Give Us Names plans to create a number of short film to place a face on the plight of the displaced families.

"Leaving La Floresta" will be shown at 8 p.m. at the Historic Plaza Theatre, 1049 Ponce de Leon Ave., Atlanta.

The 45-minute film chronicles life-changing events that impact a farmer named Abelardo.

"He had his own house on his own plot of land. He cultivated cacao (chocolate) to sell at market and yucca to feed his family. It was a simple life, but a good life. But in the spring of 2010, Abelardo's farm was destroyed. This is known as Plan Colombia," the group explains on their website.

The showing will be followed by a reception at Batdorf and Bronson Roasters in Atlanta.

Although tickets for the premier may be available at the door, Mellette says that attendees may want to purchase their tickets online to ensure they have a seat.

Ticket stubs for the film can be used for free admission into the reception, where the Give Us Names crew will be available to answer questions.