04/08/2014 05:56 pm ET Updated Jun 08, 2014

At the International Colombian Film Festival in New York, Giving a Voice to the Invisible People

I was a war correspondent in the late 80's and early 90's. Throughout seven of these years, I visited all the corners of Colombia and was able to document and disclose the brutality of the war in the lowest of its dimensions; my work consisted of walking on a dangerous edge in the midst of many crossfires.

I retired from the media in 2004 after a threat from the guerrilla forced me to leave my country. I ended up here in the United States, where I started all over again and where thanks to the support of the government I was able to work in the Consulate of Colombia. During my time at the Consulate of Colombia, I focused on the area of culture with the goal of helping my country emerge out of its anonymity in New York.

My founding partner, Juan Carvajal and I created this film festival with the intention of providing the Colombian people with the opportunity of using the medium of film as a catharsis to exorcise the pain they have endured for decades. We give voice to the invisible and forgotten people, those new and unknown storytellers that lack any opportunities in Colombia. This year the award-winning films were those whose productions were based on true stories.

Ruben Mendoza's La tierra en la lengua (Dust on the Tongue) won the award for best fiction film at this year's festival. This film tells the story of a stubborn old farmer from the eastern plains of Colombia who does not fear death at all because he has been exposed to kidnapping, extortion and death in a thousand different ways.

The film, Las tetas de mi madre (My Mother's Tits), winner of the best 100% Colombian film award tells the story of its director, Carlos Zapata's childhood. The film explores the shocking story of a child who is born and grows up in El Cartucho, a neighborhood in Bogota. The child's journey serves to demonstrate his mother fall into the abyss of prostitution and drugs.

Director Juan Carlos Melo's Jardín de amapolas (Field of Amapolas) was the winning film for the audience award. This film shows the story of two young children whose innocence is lost due to the brutality of an armed group.

Priscilla Padilla's La eterna noche de las doce lunas (The Eternal Night of the Twelve Moons) is a documentary film that makes us tremble with the history of the customs of the Wayuu women and makes us go crazy about the sounds of nature, the indigenous songs and the splendor of a place unknown to the world.

The international jury comprised of the three-time Oscar winner Chris Newman; film director Peter Webber; former director of Sundance, Nicolle Guillimet; curator of Tribeca Film Festival, Loren Hammond and the curator of the film festival in Mar del Plata, Soledad Correa, was impressed with the quality of the stories.

The winning film in the category of fiction, La tierra en la lengua (Dust on the Tongue) will compete in the Films from the South Festivalin Oslo Norway. The other winning films will be also be competing at a film festival in Sao Paulo, Brazil.