by HFPA February 26, 2011

Two Hollywood Foreign Press members were personally welcomed to the 51st Cartagena Film Festival by the president of Colombia, Juan Manual Santos.

President Santos told Daily Telegraph reporter John Hiscock and photographer Theo Kingma : “I hope you enjoy your stay in Cartagena. It’s a wonderful festival with more than 100 films. When it started in 1960 nobody dreamed it would become the preeminent festival in the region, as it has done. Some of our films have recently won awards at prestigious events like Sundance, Cannes and San Sebastian.”

The President, surrounded by security guards, was talking exclusively to the two members after speaking at the opening of a new school in the poverty-stricken San Francisco area of Cartagena. Education for Colombia’s children means a great deal to the President, who studied at the University of Kansas and later at the London School of Economics and was working on education and youth-related projects before he was elected.

The evening before the interview he had attended the outdoor screening of the festival’s opening movie, Los Colores de Montana which, he said, resonated with him because it dealt with the plight of children living in blighted areas of the country.

With Fox International and Sony Pictures Television having already based their Latin American operations in Colombia the President is developing a plan to attract directors, producers and investors, especially from the United States and India, to make movies in the country by turning it into a popular location for filming.

"We are a few hours away from the United States by plane, we have a strategic location in the Americas and our geography is ideal because we have diverse climates and landscape,” he said.

Colombian president Juan Manuel Santos talks film with HFPA member John Hiscock