When Dr. Hughes explains to businessman Adolfo Hurtado —head of a wealthy Cali family and heir to a sugar mill—, that his father has a strange blood disease whose only treatment is to receive continuous blood transfusions, specifically from young men; he is laying out the plot for a story that, as Sandro Romero Rey defined it, mixes “vampires in the tropics, with salsa, drugs and corruption.”
This is ‘Pura sangre’, the first feature film by Luis Ospina, premiered at the 1982 Cartagena Film Festival, before a perplexed audience that, for the first time, saw an urban horror film, a pure fiction that moved away from the story history and the description of the real violence that was experienced in the country. And, although its impact at the box office was not memorable, as photographer Hernando Guerrero expressed at the time, “this is not a film for Cartagena. It is a film for the history of cinema”. Therefore, ‘Pura sangre’ became a pioneering production of national cinematography, as well as a classic with which the generation of artists known as the Cali Group was consecrated.
On the 40th anniversary of the premiere of ‘Pure blood’, in the 14th edition of the Cali International Film Festival (Ficcali 2022), which was directed for 10 years by Luis Ospina, a tribute to this indispensable film was organized for today in the filmography of the cultural movement called Caliwood.
Starting at 5:00 pm, in Lugar a Dudas (15 Norte Street, No. 8N-41, Granada neighborhood), there will be a special screening, as well as a talk on ‘Pura sangre’ with Sandro Romero Rey, Karen Lamassonne, Eduardo Carvajal and Elsa Vásquez, who participated and accompanied the filmmaker from Cali in this production. In addition, an exhibition of the photographs taken by Eduardo ‘La rata’ Carvajal during the filming will be opened, and the original Story Board that was in charge of Karen Lamassonne will be appreciated.
In the words of José Urbano, a film critic, “films like ‘Pura sangre’ (1982) by Ospina, first, and later ‘Carne de tu carne’ (1983), by Carlos Mayolo, represent the jump to feature films by the Caliwood generation, which had done very well with short and medium-length films; they had made ‘Cali depelicula’ (1973), ‘Hey see!’ (1971) and his little masterpiece, ‘Agarrando pueblo’ (1978). After such success, we were all waiting for his big long-winded movie.”
Likewise, for the writer Sandro Romero Rey, who joined the production when he was 21 years old and wrote a diary about it, “more than a horror film, ‘Pura sangre’ is the first feature film in which Luis Ospina consolidates a position of author cinema. It was also the first produced by Focine, inaugurating the eighties and setting up the so-called Grupo de Cali. At the same time, she is heir to many of the tastes and obsessions of Andrés Caicedo’s literature”.
In fact, the film is dedicated to the writer of ‘Long live music!’ and founder of the Cine Club de Cali, precisely where he met Luis Ospina in 1971. Caicedo and Ospina, together with Carlos Mayolo and Ramiro Arbeláez, were the core group of the legendary magazine Ojo al Cine, one of the first film criticism publications in Colombia, which circulated between 1974 and 1975. Therefore, although he died in 1977, the influence of Andrés Caicedo was fundamental for filmmakers from Cali.
Between terror and humor
The macabre plot of ‘Pure blood’ has elements of the popular culture of Cali and Hollywood of the time, “starting with the so-called ‘Monster of the mangones’ that plagued the city in the 70s, murdering children and leaving them abandoned in lots vacant lots And they never found out who he was. Taking the figure of the multimillionaire Howard Hughes who lived locked up and isolated from the world, and with the story of an aristocrat from Cali who, they said, was in need of continuous blood transfusions in order to live, Ospina, together with the screenwriter Alberto Quiroga, put all those stories together. and they built a fable of terror”, comments Romero Rey.
It is worth mentioning the performances of Gilberto Forero, as the Caleño millionaire Roberto Hurtado, a curious mixture of Count Dracula and dirty old man who, more than terrifying, is comical. Something similar happens with the character of Perfecto, a homosexual photographer and sadistic assistant to the Hurtado family, played by Carlos Mayolo. Perfect, along with Ever (Humberto Arango), the family’s driver; and Florencia (Florina Lemaitre), Don Roberto’s nurse; They are in charge of kidnapping young people, raping them and stealing their blood, even, in their final despair, they kidnap children in the middle of December 7, Day of the Candles in Cali.
Despite the cruelty of his acts and the perverse atmosphere of Cali in ‘Pura sangre’, according to José Urbano “the film was sold as horror, but it seems to me that it did not scare, what did happen, curiously, is that it has some memorable comedy moments.
Perhaps the most terrifying moment is the chase through the San Antonio neighborhood, when the kidnappers manage to take a child.
For her part, for Gerylee Polanco Uribe, producer and filmmaker from Cali of the new generation, “this film represents a very significant experience in our history, because in the 1980s very little could be produced from the regions. It was quite an event that gave a vote of confidence to the Cali Group and that inaugurated in the cinema what would later be known as tropical gothic, which presents stories of vampirism and ghosts”.