WORM 25 – Future focus – with Cinema Colombiano

As the institute turns 25, WORM announces its new relationship with the world: Ultimate Playground. We encourage you to read all about our new plans here. We asked those who have experienced, and experiences of, WORM, to comment on how they see us in this transition year. Our second interview is with Sebastiaan Luiten and Johana Molina from Cinema Colombiano. Cinema Colombiano is a local organisation who started with a film festival of Colombian film in 2015 and then, during COVID, and driven in part by the political unrest in Colombia around the recent elections, started a radio show on Radio WORM which linked diverse strands of the expatriate Colombian communities. This show became an online meeting point for a growing community which branched out into a really popular event for Latin American music: INTERRUPCIÓN – which also incorporates empanadas, haircuts (yes!) and workshops. A true, “people-centric” creative network sharing resources and sustaining each other, in WORM, with a cutting edge cultural programme.

You both live in Rotterdam, can you tell us a bit about your relationship with the city?

In 2007 I (Sebastiaan) came to work and live in Rotterdam. I met Johana a few years later in a kroeg in the Oude Binnenweg. Johana had come from Colombia to work here and eventually study at the WdKA. Since 2013 we’ve been living together in Oud-Charlois. It’s a great area, close to the centre if you cycle through the tunnel. There are a lot of (ex-)Wormies living here, and with places like Attent, Varia and the future Klankschool, there’s some activity on this side of the river as well. This is where we started the band Buurtbeheer together with local legend Jacco Weener. Buurtbeheer is strongly connected to the neighbourhood as well as Rotterdam, with its social housing punk spirit.

And you have become regular WORM visitors over time: can you remember your first impressions of the place?

Sebastiaan: When I came to WORM for the first time, I went to see the classic film,’Creature of the Black Lagoon’ in 3d, glasses included. For no reason that I know of, there was a totally unrelated musical act consisting of a Korean duo making noise through typewriters and amplified massage toys. It was craziness at first sight and I realised I had to become a volunteer here. Most of my shifts were then spent on filming live acts on a biweekly basis. Without knowing anything about the acts I had to film beforehand, this really broadened my horizon. Further education followed through the WORM shop (Underbelly) which Mariette was then running from the foyer. There was also the Cultvideostore attached, and I became a volunteer there a bit later. Around that time I started to know Johana, who joined a memorable Dance to the Bit-party amongst others.

Johana: Back then there was no Wunderbar yet, and the first time I visited, I remember that space was filled with a mountain of stuffed animals and, full of joy, I jumped into it. It was also a place where you could hang out in the foyer, watching films like ‘Bad Taste’ during Sebastiaan’s volunteer shift at the Cultvideostore. Events were versatile, with cool acts like Anika, Gary Wilson and Thurston Moore performing and the Pantropical parties. Unfortunately at one point the videostore and WORM shop had to leave, after which the foyer went through some transformations. I have good memories of Amy Wu’s display cabinets, in which you could watch DVD’s lying down in a fluffy pink space: watching Blue Velvet during opening night while Lukas Simonis was plucking away on his guitar right next to the cabinet was quite special.

Tell us a little bit about your activities: Cinema Colombiano and INTERRUPCIÓN.

Sebastiaan: Being involved with the monthly Cultfilm program, we wanted to host a Colombian film night. The idea was to screen Rodrigo D: No Futuro -> a Colombian classic with an excellent punk soundtrack. We proposed to put a band together to play songs from this soundtrack during the event, after which Hajo Doorn, the artistic director of WORM at the time, suggested starting a festival. From that, things evolved organically into what we do nowadays. Our first edition of Cinema Colombiano was stuffed with films, the punk act and we had a traditional accordion player. There were empanadas and even a vegetarian sancocho (a typical Colombian meal). This was in 2015, and since then we’ve been organising the festival every year (except for 2020), with returning ingredients: films, music and empanadas. In 2021, we expanded our team. Both Luisa and Ana came on board with a background in filmmaking, and introduced more grassroots films and a stronger political approach to the programme. Thanks to them, we stretched the festival to a two-day event, with additional films being shown in Filmhuis Cavia in Amsterdam.

Back in 2017, we worked together with Pantropical to let Los Pirañas from Bogotá close down the film festival. From then, we truly realised music should be a key part of the festival, and we continued inviting musicians. During the pandemic, things paused a bit. Thanks to Radio WORM, we started our own Colombian radio show during lockdown, giving us a reason to enter the city centre and be part of WORM again. In that time, there were also a lot of protests taking place in Colombia against the right-winged government. Radio became a place to play protest music and give voice to people resisting oppression in the country. We also invited guests and the radio gave a sense of community to what we were doing.

After the corona years, the organiser of Pantropical left the country, which meant there was nobody bringing bands like Los Pirañas to WORM. This is when we decided to start our own event series called INTERRUPCIÓN, dedicated to music from Latin America and its diaspora. Also thanks to the radio, we discovered and got in touch with a lot of new musicians which we could invite to play in Rotterdam. At INTERRUPCIÓN, we also like to give space to other initiatives: we had haircuts by Rasureitor, and artwork by Graquandra amongst others. We always have a diverse programme with a mixed crowd visiting, which we are very proud of.

Can you tell us what made you choose WORM to stage Cinema Colombiano and INTERRUPCIÓN?

Both: It just happened like that; we were both regular visitors, and we were familiar with the possibilities. The most exciting aspect of WORM is that anything is possible: the main area upstairs can be converted from cinema to concert stage (which includes a fantastic sound setup). There’s UBIK and the Slash gallery nearby, making exhibitions possible like we did in 2021. There’s the WORM Sound Studio, which is very interesting to musicians performing at our shows and who might want to do a residency there. We can do interviews and invite people to the radio studio. There’s a wonderful kitchen… definitely a world of opportunities, and we really enjoy the events where all these spaces come together.

You use WORM a lot, you have your own radio show here and you are involved. How have you seen WORM develop, and operate, both from close up and in your peer group?

Both: It’s interesting to see how the shape of WORM changes depending on the people involved. In general, there have been good developments, but every time when someone leaves, continuity gets somewhat broken. This ranges from a fantastic PR intern leaving at the end of the year, to a change in the artistic vision, from Hajo and Mike to Janpier to now Charlien and Teun. It shows though that WORM is still here. Although certain things have gone (the WORM shop, Cultvideostore, the Stonerama smoke room), others have remained or been introduced. In recent years, Radio WORM is a beautiful example, facilitating a space in which to experiment with sound and music, and from that you can start making collaborations, making music yourselves, launching events…

Which of the three points of WORM’s new principles (found here in our Mission Statement) do you feel most attuned to, or affiliated with, when you use WORM?

Both: Fertile ground: we see WORM as a place where one can grow, inspire and get inspired, through being amongst other people of all kinds of backgrounds and generations, within a space of opportunities. Everyone is welcome, no one will experience the place in the same way. And if you’re willing to let the worm in, you’re in for a ride.