Carmiña Martínez fearlessly leads her Wayuu tribe clan in Colombian mob epic “Birds Of Passage”
This evening is the last chance to see this epic Colombian mob drama at Luxembourg City Film Festival.
Amid the flurry of films and Netflix series about the Latin American drug trade, the new film by Ciro Guerra and Cristina Gallego, is a breath of fresh air. It approaches the story from totally different historical and social perspectives than “Sicario”, “Narcos” or “El Chapo”.
Set among the matriarchal Wayuu tribe of northern Colombia, the story begins in the 1960s. a young man on the fringes of the tribe, Rapayet (José Acosta), must find a substantial dowry in order to marry the highly eligible Zaida (Natalia Reyes) and thus gain the approval of clan leader Ursula (Carmiña Martínez). Rapayet thinks he has found his golden egg when he stumbles across a bunch of American hippies serving for the Peace Corps and looking for marijuana. Using familial connections, he begins supplying the drug in relatively small amounts. Inevitably, greed and envy play their part in what is a familiar story arc from American mob epics. But equally importantly in the case of “Birds Of Passage” it is the intrusion of the outside world into the tribe and a lack of respect for its traditions that will lead to the downfall of our protagonist.
Watch the trailer
The film is beautifully shot--the opening sequence in which Zaida performs her traditional “coming out” dance is worth the entry price alone--as Guerra and Gallego capture the desert and jungle landscapes of the Guajira Peninsula. It is also beautifully designed, with everything from the traditional Wayuu dresses of the women to the flamboyant period shirts of the men and Ursula’s white castle compound adding vivid context to the story. Martínez is perfect as the godmother figure whose words of warning to Rapayet are as powerful as anything that Marlon Brando mumbled in “The Godfather”. Acosta brings to Rapayet just the right balance of naivety and ambition. The directors manage to temper their portrayal of the inevitable violence that intrudes on the tribe--they certainly don’t glorify it in detail and one scene showing the aftermath of a massacre is heart wrenching.
“Birds Of Passage” should be in contention for the main prize at the Luxembourg City Film Festival, and it is set for general release in Luxembourg cinemas on 4 April. It is one not to miss.