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Birds of Passage

Pájaros de verano

The team behind Embrace of the Serpent chart the thrilling rise and fall of the indigenous Wayuu clan in remote Colombia.

Dir Cristina Gallego, Ciro Guerra
Prod Katrin Pors, Cristina Gallego
Scr María Camila Arias, Jacques Toulemonde
With Carmiña Martínez, Jose Acosta, Natalia Reyes
Colombia-Denmark-Mexico
2018
120min
UK Distribution Curzon Artificial Eye
Subtitles

In the late 1960s, the Wayuu tribe of northern Colombia observe a strict code of familial tradition and sacred ritual. Outsider Rapayet has his sights set on marrying Zaida, the recently of-age daughter of the clan’s formidable matriarch, Ursula. Unable to afford the extravagant dowry set by Ursula, Rapayet upgrades from selling coffee to dealing drugs as a means of covering the payment. With a new criminal path set, Ursula becomes complicit in her son-in-law’s shady dealings and, over the course of the ensuing decade, the once humble tribe gradually builds a ruthless empire in the desert. A far cry from the familiar South American gangster thrillers that traditionally grace our screens, co-directors Ciro Guerra and Cristina Gallego boldly sidestep traditional genre storytelling, opting instead for a sprawling, spiritual exploration of family conflict and tribal warfare, laced with heady symbolism and surrealist flashes that wouldn’t look out of place in an Alejandro Jodorowsky film. Having worked with a steely black-and-white palette on their previous collaboration Embrace of the Serpent (which Guerra directed and Gallego produced), this mystical meditation on colonialism, tribalism and modernism positively explodes with colour. And the results are nothing short of breathtaking.

Michael Blyth

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