The power of Film Makers in Colombia- Young talents working for their community

Ana María Vásquez Valencia

Ana María Vásquez Valencia

Colombia is a latin american country that is increasingly being recognised for its world-renowned soccer players, singers, actors and models who have been able to demonstrate their talent and qualities across every single continent. However there is a great number of artists including poets, photographers and filmmakers that given the hardship of circumstances, lack the resources to flourish as artists and exploit their full potential.

Today I dedicated sometime to learn more about some ideas of film students looking for ways to use their capabilities to grow and help their community grow. And what a better way to start than with film contest finalist Ivan Rios and his project DIMENCINE. Rios is one of the 5 finalists of a nation-wide contest for university filmmakers across Colombia organised by Tecnotelevision.

Through DIMENCINE, Rios proposes a type of sensorial practice that combines different forms of art expression including theatre and audio-visual aids. His project is designed to bring closer the deaf community to the rest of society through a series of workshops based on writing, drawing and body expression. This type of ‘Psychosocial therapy’ as Rios calls it, has the purpose of building a cultural space to improve the communication and relationship between people with different levels of hearing difficulties and listeners. Rios makes use of different modes of self-expression that are not necessarily thought speaking, such as painting, literature, film, dance and juggling.

People with hearing problems benefit from taking part in these activities because they can improve their communication skills and boost their confidence to self-develop within their communities. Importantly, hearing people also benefit as they learn new ways of communicating that go outside the conventional ones, for instance if they travel to foreign countries where they don’t speak the local language.   Thirdly these practices strengthen the relationship between hearing and non-hearing individuals, for instance a hearing person will know how to give indications to a non-hearing person in the system of mass transport.

The workshops are developed on a three-day basis, where participants (both hearing and non-hearing individuals) develop a number of activities in a dark space dressed completely in black and wearing masks painted in fluorescent colours and designs. The fact that none of the participants can see each other’s faces but can only perceive each other’s expressions allows the formation of a code of communication between all participants.

One of the activities includes the positions of participants against each other in a mirror-like reflection, where both participants facing each other must learn to coordinate and reflect each other’s movements.

In one of the participant’s statements of her experience of this DIMENCINE, Paola Merchan states: “being in a dark room made me feel like taking part in a movie. I did not only feel myself, but I saw myself in a reflection. Seeing the other person doing the same signs as me, seeing Paola outside and feeling that person is who I am, and interact with that. I thought was very cool”.

Rios is an incredibly talented filmmaker that stands out as an active and resourceful citizen of his native city Bogotá, implementing new ways to build a vibrant civil community and reduce the gap between abled and disabled groups.

You can learn more about this project by watching this video (if you speak Spanish) on

You can vote for Dimencine to win the contest in this link,

You can also contact Ivan on for any questions or expressions of support.


Ana María Vásquez Valencia


Ana María Vásquez Valencia


Slow Food- a reaction to the Fast Food industry


I had the opportunity of meeting two active members of the  exemplary organisation, Slow Food; and have them tell me about their goals and activities that are taking place both in Florence and internationally. Mr. Londini told us about the origins of Slow Food, founded by italian activist Carlo Petrini back in 1986; acting as a reaction against fast food. Slow Food was created to “protect gastronomy and local food instead of using standardised and industrialised food” (Londini 2014). Mrs. Ferrari told us this is a counter movement to what we know as ‘Macdonalisation”, where food production has been globalised and you can find identical foods all over the world. All over italy each convivia is in charge of bringing people together with an interest in food, not only for the pleasure of eating, but on the “political act of eating” (Petrini). 

Slow Food constantly holds events to raise awareness, “we have courses, masters of wine, beer.. mostly teach how food is made, learn the history, theory and practice” (Ferrari 2014).  

what activities are being developed with the young generations? 

“We have set up vegetable gardens in schools (in italian known as orto in condotta), because now days children don’t know what they eat, where it comes from” (Londini 2014). In Florence there are 10 gardes in primary schools, some of us volunteers go and we work with the teachers to organise the gardens. The kids grow the vegetables, water them. During the school years they are also helped by parents. They are able to see the growth process of vegetables, they write about them, eat and paint them too. They start knowing about the importance of food, instead of just finding packaged food. “Some kids when you ask them where the chicken comes from, they will say from the supermarket. It is important for them to know where food comes from” (Londini & Ferrari 2014).

“We also have the goal of raising money to build 10,000 vegetable gardens in Africa. Every convivium collects money to finance these gardens. This money serves for people to teach local people about how to build a vegetable garden” (Ferrari 2014).

What projects do you hold for the future? 

We are now mapping producers according to our principles of slow food: eat good (taste), clean (sustainable and environmentally clean) and fair (with producers). It identifies local producers. This is a new project going on in the committee of Florence.

Another project is to organise a mercato della terra: market that sells exclusively products from a short distance of production, in which the producers meet the consumers, and sell their products directly, just as it was a few decades ago.  

Slow food is currently doing work in places all over the world! with the goal of building food sustainability and also to promote food that is GOOD, CLEAN and FAIR. 

to know more about this organisation and their activities in Italy visit:

Mug Cafe- not just a cafe, supporting local art and traditions

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In the Santa Croce area of Florence a new cafe was recently opened; yet this is not just another business selling coffee and cakes, this is quite THE PLACE if you ever find yourself wondering the streets of Florence. As soon as you enter this aesthetically beautiful establishment, you will feel the warmth and sweetness of Italians right away. You will be welcomed and taken care of by the wonderful staff running this place, they will not only give you excellent customer service, but they will treat you as a friend, perhaps the most personalised and friendly service i’ve ever experienced whilst being in Italy.

Their menu is varied and you can find a variety of plates, ranging from american style food to very local options. They will also make foccacias, smoothies and cocktails with the combination of ingredients of your choice!

If this has not convinced you yet, let me tell you another reason why you should not miss this place during your stay in Florence. Inside this business you will also get to see contemporary art of young artists from the region. Cafe owner Fabrizio told us he wants to promote young artists, thus he  is open to have the work of all artists including painters, sculpturists, poets and musicians  in his cafe, to support local art and culture. Currently he is exhibiting both poems and paintings of artists from Florence. Artworks are changed every one or two months depending on the availability of artworks.

Finally he also serves products brought from local producers, including cheese from Sardenia, Tuscany and Sicily. Also proscuitto and salami from around the region, including the famous Salami from Prato. They also serves a varied selection of artisan beers by the Italian-owned beer company Cajun, beer produced locally with different ingredients.

for more info about the location and opening hours visit:

Environmental Psychotherapy- Psychoterrapia- The new type of Psychological Therapy- Cultivating Minds


I had the chance to attend one of the talks of Dra. Valeria Uga, Psychoterapy practicer in Florence, Italy. She gave a talk about the new concept of Psychoterrapia, starting from its origins to its use in the day to day lives of ordinary peoples.

Dr. Uga explains Pshychoterrapia is based on the combination of two main elements: the principles of Psychology and Biodynamic Agriculture.

Pshychology involves the study of the human (individual and group) behaviour as well as the psychological properties that cause certain behaviour either through symbology or other inductive methods. On the other hand Biodynamic Agriculture refers to refers to the practice of agriculture as a whole, not only focused on producing goods but also focused on the process itself, where effort is also invested in ensuring diversification, health, fertility and balance; thus crops are grown with as little contamination as possible, to end up with healthy systems and also to ensure healthy consumers. (more info in:

Thus in this case Psychoterrapia entails a type of psychological treatment that encourages the wellness of the person using alive, natural systems. Thus it involves both intervention (treatment of the patient) and practice (involvement of the patient him/her self,) entailing the active involvement of the patients. This therapy is also known as “green care”.

Dr. Uga explains this new type of practice is IMPORTANT because it is based on the CONNECTION between NATURE AND SOCIETY. By being involved with and in nature, you are able to discover you are PART OF A LARGER WORLD. “By practising ‘green’ activities your mental state is directly influenced” (Uga, 2014). It is this sense of connection with the natural world that it can stimulate the human mind, bringing very positive results. Examples of treatments include:

-Orticulutura: practice of agriculture, either by helping in building and maintaining gardens, reserves..etc.

-Intervention with animals: constant interaction with other non-human living beings

– exercise in the green space

– wildness therapy: total immersion of the individual in wild nature

-farming: farm activities to promote health and other agricultural activities

Dr. Uga explains the reason why these practices promote well-being is because of the analogies that the patient can make between the natural systems (healthy, living, bright, beautiful..etc.) and the patient him/her self. The patient’s sense systems will be stimulated, and thanks to symbolism he patient will eventually find recovery. Furthermore these therapies also distance patients from our BIGGEST TEMPTATIONS of contemporary life: materialism, consumerism, profit, capitalism… and instead finds a place of spirituality and inspiration. “with Psychotherapy we can CULTIVATE MINDS” (Uga, 2014).

Conference on Social Agriculture and the Value of Food- Food and Health


An important conference has held in Florence, Italy, in june 2014, where time, effort and expertise was dedicated solely to the value of healthy food and the importance of farmers for the human living-well as well as for the environment. This meet saw the presence of three very influential italian experts on the topic, as well as key organisations and individuals in the topic of food sovereignty.

The conference was started with the presentation of Profesor Vicenzo Longo, researcher at the Istituto di Biologia e Biotecnologia Agraria (Institute of Biology and Agricultural Biotecnology) from Milan. Longo gave a very educational talk about the importance of eating healthy to ensure a good quality of life.

Eating healthy such as by minimising consumption of genetically modified foods  according to Longo is important because doing otherwise can be very harmful for our bodies. Food crops tend to be modified to increase production but in the process eliminate any nutritional value from the food.

Modified foods usually loose the antioxidants that would naturally be in the fruits and vegetables we eat. These antioxidants are extremely important for our health as they fight particles such as ‘free radicals’ that cause a disease known as ‘oxidative stress’ (an imbalance between oxidants and antioxidants). Studies have found a direct relation between oxidative stress and other serious diseases such as Parkinsons disease, cancer, chronic fatigue syndrome, heart attacks, inflammatory diseases and others.

Longo contends that this lack of nutritional elements should not just be replaced by taking supplements, as consuming artificial food can alter our endogenous antioxidant system. Instead he proposed some useful tips to maintain a healthy lifestyle and prevent disease.

Firstly is it not about the quantity of food we eat, but about the QUALITY. Furthermore there are also key foods that are high in proteins and nutrients. But particularly there are COMBINATION OF FOODS that when eaten together increase their nutritional power:

-Carrots and oil (source of vitamin E)

-Curcumin (main ingredient of Tumeric)

-Cocoa Butter

-Hazelnut and Wine

-Lemon and Green tea

He also suggests the avoidance of food additives, the consumption of local products from local farmers, and consumption of foods that are in season. Also to avoid fast foods as they have additives that cause dependence, such as chemicals that stimulate our smelling senses.



for more info about the Institute:

Toscana Biologica- supporting local Tuscan farmers

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As the week ends it is time to write up a list and go and purchase some veggies to fill your fridge once again.  But what if every time to did this dreary exercise of grocery shopping you could contribute to your neighbour farmers and support the economy that at the end of the day supports you? and even more importantly, what if instead of giving your money to big chains of super markets, you could see, talk to and even have a friendship with the people that produce the goods that you are buying?

Another key area to take into account is our health, in the sense of wether we really know what we are feeding ourselves and our kids. Are you really consuming a live-some vegetable or fruit? or are you eating something that looks like a vegetable, but does not really taste like much? with little conscience and knowledge of the products we eat, you could very easily be eating poison and you would never know it.

Thankfully there is global action to secure food sovereignty. Here in Florence, Italy for instance a lot is being done in this regard, where more and more people are supporting the idea of consuming ’0-km’ products. I had the pleasure of meeting Daniele Marchetti, from Toscana Biologica, who kindly had some time to talk to us about the marvellous work his shop is doing for the Florentine community.

Can you tell me about the concept of ‘0-km’, and how is growing here in the Toscan region?

Here in the Toscan region we identify products as ‘0-kms’  if they have been produced within 70kms of proximity to their point of sale.  This is specifically used to promote local production. This initiative is a response to our loss of food sovereignty, where we should be able to support ourselves with our local production. Unfortunately today there are not as many farmers and therefore production is not meeting demand. Consuming ‘0-km’ products is important firstly because it reduces transport cost and pollution. Secondly because for those with health problems it is very important to consume organic products, as they need to their food habits.

How is Toscana Biologica helping the Florentine community?

I studied agriculture and for the last 10 years I worked in farms, that’s when I realised that I didn’t want to work in a farm that uses chemicals, I wanted to be able to go home and hug my kids without worrying about contaminating them.

Here we sell good products, and I know that the money that people spend here goes towards building the local economy. And I have witnessed very positive things. What makes a man free is a healthy diet. We support local production, 80-85% of the products we sell are from the Tuscan region. We also have some seasonal products from Sicily. Even though our prices are not as cheap as in supermarkets, you have to remember that we only collect 30% of profits from every euro spent; the other 70% goes to the farmers.

What has been the reaction of Florentines?

We have started slow, but today we see a lot of interested people. They are starting to realise this is a particularly different shop. Apart from its good cause there are also very skilled workers who are able to help our customers. We have a good knowledge of the fields, we know our products and agriculture. So our customers can trust us. We also recommend our customers to visit the farmers themselves, we  facilitate their contact. In other words we are not just a retail store.

How do you contact the farmers? Are they easy to reach?

Some farmers are very small and it’s hard to contact them. Some of them don’t have phones. But now we all know each other. We have built a net of relationships. As we continue to grow what we eventually want is to connect all farmers, and have a bigger system of distribution. The problem has always been the lack of communication between farmers themselves.

It is also hard for them to do everything at once, grow crops, get contacts, sell the products. But if we can help them with this, eventually they can just concentrate in growing crops. This would surely make their work a lot easier.

Even though there is considerably a lot more conscience about the problems of food sovereignty, we all need of your help and support. We can take the example of Toscana Biologica and start supporting our farmers. Without local food stocks communities are extremely vulnerable to all types of crises. The more united people are and prepared to fight giant supermarkets that are feeding us nutrition-less food, the better chances we stand to overcome any type of problems.

Thank you to Daniele and to Toscana Biologica for the example they are giving us!


Italians plant libraries – Bibliorto

P1040589 P1040575 P1040573 P1040570From the outside the Isolloto library in Florence looks like any other conventional library, yet inside you will find yourself with a particular type of library never to have been seen before. Once you enter the white-looking-building, on the second level you will be tricked to think you are in an agricultural farm; apart from books you can also find red tomatoes, zucchinis, apple trees and others of the kind.

Isolotto library is the first library to have opened a didactic garden built by and for the community, officially known as Bilbiorto, which in english traduces to libra-garden. Although it was not easy to build a project of a kind, today this library enjoys of diverse types of local plantations. Bilbiorto represents a new way of learning that is not necessarily reachable by books. Here kids and adults of all ages can come to learn about agriculture and practice their skills.  This garden is particularly beneficial to the city people that do not have access to rural areas but would love to get in touch with nature. Bilbliorto is officially one of the many projects supported by international group Slow Food, working everyday to ensure international food sovereignty.

In an interview with Bibliorto’s coordinator, he tells us about the long yet successful process of the building of this garden. It was a project 100% built thanks to voluntary work, where Florentines got together to construct it.  Hear what he had to say in regards to Bibliorto and also about food sovereignty in general.

Why did you choose to build an orchard in a library?

Before this library was built this land was filled with farmers that had their own plantations. Bilbiorto was built to remember then and to keep that agricultural culture alive. Also back in the day there were no libraries that dealt with the theme of agriculture, and what better way to do it than in a didactical way.

How important has voluntary work been in the establishment and development of Bibliorto?

Voluntary work is the biggest act of generosity a person can give. Today it is very hard to receive voluntary work, because today time is gold and is really a commodity. When people give their time to help others is a huge help, but not a luxury we can all have. Voluntary work also fluctuates a lot, at first it is very strong but people need to be kept motivated. For a project to work it relationship of work cannot only be based only on friendship, but it requires of willingness and perseverance.

How does Bibliorto benefit your community and what problems is it trying to face?

We only plant local fruits and vegetables, not hybrids nor genetically modified foods. The problem we have today is that major supermarkets are choosing uniform types of foods that have sometimes less flavor but are better for transportation or for sale. For example the common tomatoes you find in supermarkets are there because of their thick skin that allows long transportation. But here we are interested in flavor, and the softer the skin, the better flavor you will get. Here we have ‘cosoluto’ tomatoes, they are thin skinned and they are not smooth but have texture. They are good for cooking because they have less liquid and more pulp.

We also have three types of local trees of figs, plums and apples. For example here in Tuscany there were about 500 to 600 different species of apples with specific characteristics and territories, but in the super market you can only find 5 or 6.  Each of these types of apples constitute a large 25% of the whole of apples sold, but if a pest were to hit a type of apple, a whole 25% of these fruits would be lost, a massive loss. If production is more diversified it means that a pest would only hit a smaller stock of food. Therefore diversified production helps to reduce risk.


Well this library has certainly a whole load to teach us! perhaps we should start asking our local library to start filling empty spaces with knowledge-rich plantations!

For more info about the library visit


Orti di Pinti- Grass roots gardening in Florence, Italy

The city of Florence is one of the biggest and most popular attractions in Italy. Apart from its historical buildings and famous museums, the city is also known for its dazzling gardens such as Boboli, Bardini or Garden of the Rose (to mention a few). However one gorgeous garden that has failed to be mentioned in main tourist brochures is the garden of Orto di Pinti.

There are many reasons why this garden will captivate your attention and hopefully  admiration as well. Orto di Pinti was the first community garden to be established in the city of Florence. The project was developed by well-known architect Giacomo Salizzoni. This garden is part of the new trend of didactic community gardening taking place today around the world. The garden offers a sustainable system consisting of modern technology and also traditional agricultural techniques. This grass-roots garden (built by the people and for the people) promotes education in the community for instance in techniques such as clay pot irrigation, mineral salt production or food making. It works with different sectors of society such as kids, adults and individuals with disabilities. Orti di Pinti is already creating international awareness and has received important visits such as city majors and even the famous Vandana Shiva.

In an interview with Giacomo, we were able to learn more about his project and how we has able to turn an empty space into a tremendous valued social and environmental endeavour.

Can you tell us more about the functioning of this garden?

We are currently working to develop a sort of electronic brain that will identify when the plants are thirsty and will automatically activate rain, an irrigation system to water the plants. This is the latest and its costly but we are working on it, the point is to stop wasting water. Another important aspect in an info point that will provide information about activities and also to educate people and also produce products. For example we produce salt here, it not only bring back income but also educates people in the process of making it, eventually it will also create jobs.

How does this park contribute to the Florentine community?

This garden contributed both in the social sphere as well as in the greening of the area. This is interesting social technology.  There is collaboration with teachers to instruct the public about new agricultural practices, for instance about sub-irrigation with claypots, an irrigation technique which works very efficiently and is not really known by anybody.

Do you think Florence is an environmentally sustainable city? Is there any projects going on currently or is there any missing?

There always needs to be more, however I think we are doing quite well because finally there is some awareness of the fact that there is a push that is much stronger than the trend itself. There is a push from normal people like me, a strong example. I wanted so hardly to bring good to the community. We have had visits from the city major and even Vandana Shiva, everybody loved this, and who wouldn’t. This itself gives us power.

(05/06/13- AMP)

Orti di Pinti garden 3 garden 4 pinti garden

For more information about this garden visit