LT22: Radio La Colifata

LT22: Radio La Colifata


Reviewed by: Amber Wilkinson

Radio La Colifata is a station run by the patients of the El Borda psychiatric hospital in Buenos Aires, the impact and running of which are explored in this engaging and moving documentary shot over a 10-year period by Carlos Larrondo. “Colifata”, says one of its presenters, “is a synonym for insane” in a show of forthrightness that is typical of the film.

What is El Borda? One patient says it’s “for crazy people” another calls it “a prison without bars”, while a third brands it a “dump for the insane”, yet through the course of the film, we will come to know many of the patients there for who they really are, humans – no different from anyone else except for their medical problems, which so many of us are blessed to avoid.

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Once a week, the station broadcasts from the gardens of the hospital, with many of the patients having their own specific slot in which to explore their philosophy of life and the world, and examine and strengthen their own place within it. By reaching out over the airwaves, they form a connection with a much wider public, able to see past their illness to their talent for poetry, music and sense of community.

Among them, is Horacio, a poet and dreamer first and manic depressive second, whose talent with words is indisputable. Then there's elderly patient Stella, who spends most of her life living on the streets, yet displays a fierce intelligence and tenacity when it comes to hosting interviews on the station. They are just two of many people who, by the end of the film, Larrondo teaches us to respect and admire.

Given that there must have been immense amounts of footage thanks the 10-year gestation of Larrondo's project, his editing is incredibly sharp. He cleverly interweaves the lives of the "Colifatas", while also telling the tale of a spreading movement of radio stations to help those with mental health problems, focussing on visits by Horacio and others to similar projects in France, Spain and Italy.

Larrondo also shows how the station and its presenters have grown, both in terms of their own health and wellbeing, but also in terms of stature, with high-profile musician Manu Chao also becoming involved in their fundraising and, almost importantly, their work. At one point, one patient talks about how losing your mind leads to losing your life - not by suicide, but by the loss of friends, family and a sense of community that tends to follow the illness.

This moving film shows how a sense of solidarity and purpose give those at El Borda a welcome outlet for their talents and how, perhaps more importantly, demonstrates how their enthusiasm and words of wisdom lead to a much greater awareness and understanding of mental illness in the wider community. ¡Viva La Radio!

Reviewed on: 07 Mar 2009
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LT22: Radio La Colifata packshot
Documentary about a radio show produced by patients at a Buenos Aires psychiatric hospital.

Director: Carlos Larrondo

Year: 2007

Runtime: 80 minutes

Country: Italy, Argentina


Viva 2009

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