Kinda sounds like when Jay Leno sets up a mic for people to do & say whatever they want.

Candid on capital's cameras

TV program shows citizens speaking their minds on video

By Henry Chu
Los Angeles Times
Posted November 8 2005

Bogota She was a young woman with a message, and she wanted the whole city to hear it.

So on a recent afternoon, she marched over to one of Bogota's busiest street corners, stood before a flimsy-looking cardboard kiosk, punched a green button and addressed the video camera that whirred to life.

"To all publicists: I've had it up to here with seeing butts and breasts. There are more intelligent ways to market a product," she said, her voice full of exasperation. "If you have daughters, sisters, whatever, please think. ...

"Women, respect yourselves! We have something called a brain, which lasts longer than this and this," she declared, clutching her chest and backside. Then, satisfied with her diatribe, she plunged back into the teeming sidewalk traffic.

That same week, a middle-aged man with a harried look stepped up to the kiosk and delivered a different sort of plea.

"I want to tell all the mothers-in-law of the world, you're very much loved by us sons-in-law," he said a little nervously, with one particular mother-in-law clearly in mind. "But sometimes you're too intense, and you don't support the couple enough. ... I love you very much, but you've got to change."

Both appeals were broadcast on television a few days later, beamed into living rooms across this bustling capital of 7 million people. The clips formed part of the hit show Citycapsula, a weekly compilation of outtakes of ordinary residents who stop at one of several camera-loaded kiosks around the city and opt to put a few moments of their lives on film.

The motives and the messages are as diverse as the people. For some, it's a fleeting shot at fame: They sing, crack jokes, pitch weird inventions. Others promote pet causes, share their thoughts on life or make confessions of lust or love. Then there are serious civic announcements, including complaints about public services or police abuse, or requests for information on missing loved ones.

It all adds up to a fascinating weekly snapshot of Bogota, a revealing dip in the city's stream of consciousness in a society where culture, religion and the grinding effects of civil war have long discouraged individual expression.

"The expectation has always been that it would be a mirror of the city," said Takeshi Pedraos, Citycapsula's director and producer at the independent Citytv channel.

The show's inspiration came from a sister channel in Toronto, home to Speakers Corner, a program named after the famous spot in London's Hyde Park where people station themselves and declaim on any subject under the sun.

Intrigued by the idea, producers from Citytv decided to try it themselves. They set up two camera kiosks, or "capsules," in Bogota, one outside the channel's studio downtown and the other in a shopping mall. Users would have 30 seconds to say his or her piece.

The initial results weren't promising. People tended to act and speak stiffly or overdramatically.

But as Citytv started sprinkling its regular programming with spots from the capsules, and as the number of kiosks expanded, Bogotanos -- normally a formal, buttoned-down bunch -- grew accustomed to the concept and began to relax.

Viewers started tuning in to Citycapsula in droves, hoping to see themselves or friends or to peek into their neighbors' lives.

Kiosks began popping up in all manner of locations, to attract a variety of people: at universities, outside an army post, at sporting events, in a high-security women's prison, libraries, a cemetery, even next to the entrance of a brothel. The number of users surged from 500 a week in the beginning to between 6,000 and 10,000 currently.

What began as a small experiment, a series of short clips aired during commercial breaks, blossomed into its own half-hour show in 2000, then hourlong in 2002. Citycapsula is now a fixture on Citytv's Saturday evening lineup, a program that's equal parts Candid Camera, bully pulpit, psychiatrist's couch, confessional, community bulletin board and complaint hotline.

The Los Angeles Times is a Tribune Co. newspaper.