Documenting the true-to-life rise and fall of rival Wayuu clans in northern Colombia, the latest film by creative life partners Cristina Gallego and Ciro Guerra (producer and director respectively of the 2016 Academy Award-nominated EMBRACE OF THE SERPENT) is an unexpected take on the cartel genre. With incredible attention to the detail of Colombia’s indigenous Wayuu customs, traditions and celebrations, Gallego and Guerra weave an epic tragedy of pride, greed, and the clash between the old and new worlds.
Raphayet (José Acosta) is captivated by Zaida (Natalia Reyes) at her “coming out” ceremony, and is determined to come up with the enormous dowry her mother, the family matriarch Úrsula (Carmiña Martínez), demands. The solution to his money woes appears when he and his friend Moisés (Jhon Narváez) meet up with some hippie Peace Corps volunteers who are looking for weed, an encounter that leads to disastrous consequences for all involved.
As everyone’s wealth increases, so too does Moisé’s ego, and his trigger-happy attitude annoys the Wayuu who have been suspicious of this alijuna (outsider) from the get go. When Moisés targets Raphayet’s cousin’s clan, a rapid downward spiral ensues, bringing everyone along with it.
Perfectly blending professional and non-professional actors, trappings of Western influence, and exquisite colourful Wayuu attire, Gallego and Guerra’s BIRDS OF PASSAGE is a fascinating tale of Shakespearean proportions. (Synopsis from the 2018 Toronto International Film Festival Program Guide)
“This is an absolutely extraordinary film…. Guerra and Gallego’s film is no dusty period piece, it is wildly alive, yet it reminds us that no matter how modern we are, there are ancient songs our forebears knew whose melodies still rush in our blood.” —Jessica Kiang, The Playlist “[The] subject is hardly untilled dramatic territory, as any admirer of Netflix’s highly addictive “Narcos” will tell you, but perspective is everything: In favoring an indigenous perspective, grounding its crime-thriller tropes in the rich soil of native tradition, the movie achieves a lyrical power and moral clarity all its own.” —Justin Chang, Los Angeles Times "In modern movie terminology, ‘epic’ usually just means long, crowded and grandiose. BIRDS OF PASSAGE, Cristina Gallego and Ciro Guerra’s follow-up to their astonishing, hallucinatory, Oscar-nominated EMBRACE OF THE SERPENT earns the label in a more honest and rigorous manner.” —A.O. Scott, New York Times
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