With the dreamy, haunting masterpiece Embrace of the Serpent, Colombian director Ciro Guerra secured his country’s first Oscar nomination for best foreign language film. It was an astonishing movie, inverting the colonial themes of Herzog’s Fitzcarraldo and Coppola’s Apocalypse Now, presenting its mythical narrative from the perspective of the indigenous Amazonian tribespeople in the jungles of Vaupés.
Now, Guerra shares directorial credit with his long-time producer, Cristina Gallego, to tell a tale of “gangsters and spirits”, played out against the arresting backdrop of the La Guajira region of northern Colombia. Described by its creators as an investigation of “the great tragedy that would curse us forever; the great taboo that we are not allowed to discuss”, Birds of Passage revisits the birth of the Colombian drug trade as seen through the eyes of an indigenous Wayúu family. The result combines the epic sweep of The Godfather trilogy with the magical realism of Gabriel García Márquez, replacing the monochrome majesty of Embrace of the Serpent with a boldly coloured palette, as richly textured as the story itself.
Guajira - Desert - Woman - Rites-of-passage - Confinement
We open in the Guajira desert, 1968, where a young woman emerges from a traditional rites-of-passage confinement, ready and willing to face the future. Natalia Reyes is mesmerising as Zaida, never more so than during the breathtaking yonna dance in which her blood-red cloak billows behind her like giant wings, ready to take flight. José Acosta is Rapayet, the suitor who asks for Zaida’s hand in marriage and is told that only a substantial dowry of goats, cows, mules and necklaces will secure his goal.
Along with his unruly friend Moisés, Rapayet (who “lost everyone when he was young and grew up among foreigners”) has developed a relationship with the alijunas, or non-Wayúu people, one that has “opened the world to him”. His uncle, the mediating “word...
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