More than 20 years ago, British documentary film maker Alan Ereira began researching for a film about a lost city in the rain forests of Colombia’s Sierra Nevada de Santa Marta, the highest coastal mountain in the world.
The description is typical of the shrewd, laid-back charm he brings to the complexities involved in setting up, making and selling a film. In 1990s Colombia it took courage, chutzpah and experience as well as that charm to negotiate warring drug barons, labyrinthine government bureaucracy and a group of massively obstructive nuns. But in the end, the place known as hell proved to be the gateway to a Garden of Eden. And Ereira didn’t just find the lost city. He found a lost civilisation that changed his perception of the universe.
During this project, Ereira heard that the Kogi tribe lived in the area of the lost city. Along with two other indigenous tribes, the Arhuaco and the Assario, the Kogi of the Sierra Nevada de Santa Marta are descendants of the ancient Tairona civilisation, which flourished in Colombia at the time of the Spanish invasion. They escaped destruction at that time by retreating high into the mountains.
Ereira was responsible for contacting the mamas or elders. The Kogi are elusive, and, at that time, getting to them required either a four-day hike or a helicopter ride through country controlled by guerillas.