‘Birds of Passage’ Review: A Thrilling and Refreshing Take on the Drug Trade [TIFF]

/Film | 9/18/2018 | Marshall Shaffer
n.kingn.king (Posted by) Level 3
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We’ve seen plenty of films giving us stories from the South American drug trade from the colonial-style perspective of the white man. Now is the time for Birds of Passage, a filming providing a gripping look at how the burgeoning business of marijuana affected the indigenous tribes of Colombia.

Ciro Guerra and Cristina Gallego’s film takes the form of a plaintive remembrance and meditation on past events. Each “song” that structures the narrative of Birds of Passage provides further insight into how the Wayúu tribe moved away from their cosmic purpose and further into a racket of organized crime. If it feels didactic, this tone is purposeful. The form of the film pays tribute to the tradition of tribal elders by connecting the cartel saga to a never-ending struggle to honor the spirits and the land. Birds of Passage is but another compelling episode in the conflict.

Guerra - Gallego - Time - Simplicity - Wayúu

Guerra and Gallego begin at a time of simplicity, if not necessarily innocence, among the indigenous Wayúu tribe of Colombia. The film has great respect for their traditions and practices, never stopping to dumb anything down for unfamiliar audiences. At a courtship-style ritual, Rapayet (José Acosta) seeks the hand of Zaida (Natalie Reyes), the daughter of the clan’s matriarchal figure Ursula (Carmiña Martínez). She shoos the suitor away until he can pay her dowry, setting the stage for the resourceful Rapayet to enter the drug business. What starts with helping white tourists procure a little bit of weed eventually leads to a full flourishing of commerce surrounding marijuana.

The lucrative enterprise pays off the dowry and then some, bringing unprecedented wealth and prosperity to the clan. A quick cut by Guerra and Gallego reveals the new opulence replacing the tents in their village, reflecting the rapidity of the transition. With this new influx of money, the...
(Excerpt) Read more at: /Film
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