Riveting Riffs Logo One Filmmaker Camila Rodriguez Bohorquez
Camila Rodriguez Bohorquez

It was a journey that began as a child in Bogotá, Colombia, with dreams of utilizing a career path first as a biologist and now as a filmmaker to see the world. In between those two careers, she served as the Head of Production in a company that specialized in new and virtual media marketing for major brands. She is now immersed in several other film projects in both Madrid, Spain, where she now lives and in Colombia, but for the moment she is not at liberty to discuss them.

Each fifty-two minute segment of Atlántico directed by Daniel Landa, who was also the series creator, is filled with culture, adventure, and beauty, as the four person crew filmed in Spain, Portugal and twelve west African countries, which border on the Atlantic Ocean. Other members of the four person team were Tato de la Rosa and Vinsen Modino, the cinematographers.  

Camila Rodriguez Bohorquez Photo One B“Daniel has devoted his life to being a journalist, director and a writer. He specializes in long expedition series and documentary series.

When Daniel (Landa) came to me he was looking for a way to make his product a little more modern within an internet and digital context. We tried to expand the narrative and we decided on a lot of things for social media. We found our principal sponsor Volvo who gave us two cars for the expedition.

It was very interesting to work with Volvo, because the first thing they told us was we are not a 4 x 4 adventure brand. We are not one of those brands that people use to cross Africa, but we do share the spirit, values, and the principles of the series. That is a whole other conversation.

The film crew began its eight month expedition in northwest Spain in the autonomous region of Galicia and wound its way to the El Rocío pilgrimage in Andalusia, before heading to Portugal.

“For the second chapter we traveled, and we traveled all of Portugal, including the Azores Islands, and the third chapter was the Canary Islands (part of Spain) and then in the fourth chapter we entered Africa and it was the first part of Morocco and we continued Morocco in the next chapter.

The director had the route planned, but we also added content that we found along the way. There were things that we could only do when we were there. We had worked for a very long time on the pre-production of the stories, but also our strategy was to get into the territories and very quickly find the best stories in each of the places that we visited. We had a very specific route, but when we got to those places, we also wanted to film things that were unique, for example a wedding or the ceremony celebrating a newborn child or rituals that were specific to that culture,” says Camila Rodriguez Bohorquez.

She explains, “The director (Daniel) spent a lot of years working on research and then we started to find people in the terrain who could be our guides and tell us specific stories. My job as a producer was to talk to people, talk to all the embassies and to try and find guides in all the places. I would find out what culture that guide belonged to if something special was happening in his family or in his community and if we could have the trust of the people to film it.  

What we did in Morocco was completely different from what we did in Senegal or how we got to the stories in Guinea Bissau I always say this we had a documentary god who was always guarding us. At Guinea Bissau we met an incredible musician who was also a guide. He had lived in Spain for twenty years, so he spoke perfect Spanish and he is one of the most amazing human beings I have met in my life. He is a very famous musician in the country. He belongs to a specific culture, which had a spiritual mission in life. That mission was to be a singer. Whenever there is a problem, their mission is to guide the people and give advice. As they are playing, they improvise songs that get people to relax, and it gives them peace. They are called when someone dies or there is a newborn or when a couple is fighting. It was very interesting to understand his country from his point of view. We traveled to his hometown and his family. We then went to the rural community where he was born.    

We found him by chance, when we were sitting next to the Spanish embassy, while we were waiting for the film permission paper. He heard us speaking Spanish and (someone introduced us). Camila Rodriguez Photo Three

We needed to be very efficient with the time that we had. We were always searching for stories and trying to keep on time. We had a lot of logistical (challenges), because we needed to cross twelve different borders in Africa. Each country was different, for instance Morocco is highly militarized country where filming is not looked upon favorably. You always have secret police following you and asking what you are doing. They took you away from places where you did not have permission to film. Getting those permissions is difficult as hell. Crossing the borders with the cars we had to deal with a lot of tax and insurance issues.”

The most common languages spoken in the countries they visited were English, Spanish, Portuguese, and French. The first three Camila Rodriguez Bohorquez speaks well, and she speaks a little French.

However, she says, “When we got further out from the cities, they didn’t speak those languages they had their own language, so it was important to have someone from the community with us.”

There were numerous challenges along the ways, “Africa is a very disorganized and corrupt continent in many ways, so it makes it difficult to deal with. Institutions are very slow too. There is also a beautiful side of it. The communities and the culture are still very spiritual. There are a lot of cultural protocols you must follow, and you just learn that by being there. You can’t just film people. There is a leader of the town, and you have to get his permission.

We had a huge ethical battle when it came to paying people for interviews and to have access to things. Of course, we understand there are things worth people’s time and money. You have to pay for them. This is a big issue for documentary filmmakers in general, concerning should you pay for interviews or not. We didn’t pay anybody, and we didn’t bribe anybody. That is an almost impossible mission in Africa. That delayed us for almost 300 hours.

Being a woman producer was also very challenging, especially in the Muslim countries. People ware not used to seeing women asking for things, managing things, and paying for things, (such as hotels and food) or dealing with men.”

If you had to put a title on Camila Rodriguez Bohorquez role with Atlántico it would be production manager, which as she acknowledges can mean a lot of different things.

“A production manager is usually the person who executes the budget to make the film or series possible. The production manager is usually involved in building the team.  

When you are producing documentaries, it is very challenging to find the budget. What I did as a production manager with this documentary series was a (variety) of different things, all the way from pre-production and building up the project, creating the budget and doing a lot of interviews to understand who we were taking on the expedition, who we were hiring and why. We tried to build the best team possible. (It involved) finding investors and finding access to tax rebates in Spain.  In the beginning we also built up an extensive transmedia narrative for the project,” she says.

What does the future hold for Camila Rodriguez Bohorquez?

“My passion is in documentaries and nonfiction projects. I have a super, mega passion with, and I know this is a burned out word, but with storytelling and telling human stories. I also understand that the format is changing all the time. I am also involved with stories in podcast format. At the moment I am (concentrating) on TV series, which for me means documentary series. I want to be a showrunner. That (role) has existed for years in America, but it hadn’t been used in a European or Latin American context.”

She goes on to explain what a showrunner does, “A showrunner is a person who creates and produces series. It is somebody who is very specialized. This person has a double vision, the industry vision and the executive producer’s vision of the audiovisual products. (He / She) also has a creative side.

Camila Rodriguez Photo SixWhat I like the most is you are not only a creative producer in charge of making things happen, but you are also the creator. You influence the product, where it comes from, why is it there, what is the vision and where it is going.  There are a lot of showrunners who are focused more on writing and that happens a lot with the fiction series. A lot of showrunners who are more focused on directing. Some showrunners combine production and development. There are also executive producers who have a lot of creative insight, and they can control the products creatively and economically.

In essence a showrunner who has a huge creative sense and knowledge, but also a huge knowledge of how the industry works and how you can take your products to the other side. I am focusing on that, because what I learned from Atlántico is I want to devote my life to documentaries and documentary series.

I am trying to take documentary series to another level. It is something that I think platforms like Netflix have been doing in recent years. Documentaries have grown their viewers and grown in importance. You can learn from documentaries and people understand that they are not just a boring thing that you see on television, and you fall asleep, but they have a very complex narrative. There are many types of digital cameras now that were not accessible before and that you can take to film monkeys in the jungle or that you can take underwater. How people see documentaries has continued to evolve.”

So, the obvious question to ask Camila Rodriguez Bohorquez would seem to be whether as a child growing up in Colombia if she ever dreamed, she would see as much of the world as she has done.

“I would say I always dreamed about it, and it has come through in a very magical way that I didn’t expect. I wanted to get to other places and to find out what you could do there. I was never satisfied with what was in front of me. I dreamed of knowing more and I wanted (to know) what was on the other side. I feel very privileged and very fortunate to have done what I have so far. It has taken a lot of work. It hasn’t been easy, and I was thinking about this when I was driving a Volvo in the middle of Sierra Leon. I was thinking gosh Camila how did you end up here? (She smiles), a Colombian woman, driving a Spanish Volvo in the middle of Sierra Leone, Africa. That wasn’t on my dream list!” she says reflectively and with a bit of a chuckle.  

How Camila Rodriguez Bohorquez went from being a child in Colombia to a biologist and then working for an organization that tried to convince government environmental policies, to becoming a highly sought after marketing figure for major brands, and finally a filmmaker would take a lifetime, so we will give you the abridged version. The spark to become a documentary filmmaker was originally lit when she worked on a research vessel off the coast of Brazil and the team was documenting the migratory paths of humpback whales and their habits. Small cameras were attached to the whales and here is something we bet you didn’t know; each humpback whale’s tail is like a fingerprint. It is unique, so each of the tails was photographed, so in the seasons, which followed they could be more easily identified. Those experiences confirmed for Camila Rodriguez Bohorquez that she wanted to be a documentary filmmaker, but she also saw an opportunity to combine her new passion with her skills as a biologist. One of her two minors at university was in environmental sciences. However, she knew that if she wrote an academic paper on some aspect of her science career it would end up in a scientific journal or science magazine and she says, “and nobody would ever read it.” She needed to find a way to make more of an impact.

“I was working in a super cool office in a super cool building, and I was super well-dressed, but all of a sudden I asked myself what are you doing? This is not yourself. I wasn’t born to be in an office in the middle of Bogotá from 8 am until 8 pm. This was not me, so I needed to do something else,” and we will add the word that she is so fond of and likes to draw out for emphasis, “Exactly!”

We will not take you through all the turns in the road as to how she got to Madrid, Spain, but she does say this, “I came here with no expectation of staying. It wasn’t a fixed plan or anything. I started working with one of my teachers who was doing a documentary series.”

We saw a quote this week and we thought of Camila Rodriguez Bohorquez, “Little girls have dreams, and they grow up to become women with vision.” Perhaps somewhere in Bogotá, Colombia or in Spain or another country, there is another little girl who dreams of exploring the world, pursuing her passion and dreams and she is thinking Camila Rodriguez Bohorquez did it and I can too!      Return to Our Front Page

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This interview by Joe Montague  published June 27th, 2021 is protected by copyright © and is the property of Riveting Riffs Magazine All Rights Reserved.  All photos and artwork are the the property of  Camila Rodriguez Bohorquez and  Doc & Road unless otherwise noted and all  are protected by copyright © All Rights Reserved. This interview may not be reproduced in print or on the internet or through any other means without the written permission of Riveting Riffs Magazine.