In a bout of grief, filmmaker Nemo Allen Maldonado follows his recently deceased mother’s footsteps to war-torn Cauca, Colombia, to document the struggle of the Indigenous Nasa. Confronted with a much more complex and dangerous environment than he had imagined, Nemo wonders why his mother repeatedly risked her life filming there in the early 90’s. Amidst the specter of death and violence, Nemo finds strength and hope in the Nasa’s Indigenous Guard, who protect their community with nothing more than decorated batons, and spirit.

Two years after my mother died, I decided to head to her home country of Colombia, to try and complete the documentary she left unfinished. I was grieving, lost, and looking for connection. Making El Bastón, I risked my own life filming in rural Colombia, as did she, almost thirty years before. My mom had to hide from FARC rebels under bananas in a riverboat, and I had to hide from their descendants in the back of a restaurant kitchen. I think whereas Victoria was inspired, I was more reckless, and yet, I am better for it. My hope is that I can, with the small contribution of this film, inspire others grappling with an overwhelming sense of futility, and — of course — raise awareness about the Nasa People and their struggle for survival. Ultimately, I think the story of Indigenous resistance, 500 years in the making, is the real teacher.


2022 NBR Student Grant


Type of Project





City College


Nemo Allen Maldonado, Hanna Wallis, Aditi Natasha Kini, Juan Blanco Garcia


Nemo Allen Maldonado


Nemo Allen Maldonado, María Victoria Maldonado