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Film Of The Week Weeded out

Birds of Passage powerfully illustrates how the cannabis trade is wiping out one of Colombia's indigenous peoples, says MARIA DUARTE

Birds of Passage (15)
Directed by Cristina Gallego and Ciro Guerra

FROM the team behind the Oscar-nominated Embrace of the Serpent comes another bold and ambitious drama which takes a unique look at the birth of the drugs trade in northern Colombia and its brutal effects on an unsuspecting indigenous community.

It examines the devastating impact of savage capitalism endured by a Wayuu family as, corrupted by the wealth and power that the sale of cannabis brings, we witness their rise and fall.

Inspired by true events, the film spans the period from from the 1970s to the 1980s and its five chapters show how its protagonist Rapayet (Jose Acosta) first gets into drugs trafficking when he meets a group of anti-communist US fighters.

They are looking to purchase 50 kilos of weed and Rapayet, who desperately needs to raise funds for a dowry — 30 goats, 20 cows, five necklaces and two decorative mules — to win the hand of Zaida (Natalia Reyes) embarks on a slippery road to hell.

Her mother Ursula (Carmina Martinez) and their tribe’s matriarch warn him against the perilous path he is taking and how he is turning his back on their traditions and old ways.

This is a people who believe in spirits and omens and have never traded in money. Abundant shots of close-ups of birds and insects are ominous portents which Rapayet conveniently ignores at his peril.

The advent of prosperity sparks greed, petty jealousies, rivalry and treachery among family and close friends, ending in an all-out bloody war which brings the demise of this indigenous community’s innocent, simple and straightforward way of life.

With its vibrant use of colour, poetical tone and stunning cinematography, directors Cristina Gallego and Ciro Guerra deliver an audacious Colombian drugs-trade drama like you have never seen before.

You can’t help but mourn the loss of the Wayuus.

 

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