Birds of Passage
While, at its core, a simple morality tale about the dangers of greed, Cristina Gallego’s and Ciro Guerra’s Birds of Passage succeeds in its sheer skill of execution, original setting and detailed depiction of the indigenous Wayuu people of Columbia in the 1970s. The addition of a well-structured plot, excellent pacing and fascinating characters makes the picture not only a success, but a powerful exploration of a rarely told historical moment.
Of course, gangster films that portray the inherent violence in the drug trade are nothing new. But few dare to tell it from the perspective of a poverty-ridden, traditionalist society in the heart of Columbia, where tribal rites and ultra-conservative family values dominate decisions related to business and family alike. It is in this setting that Rapayet (José Acosta), a young man down on his luck, attempts to woo Zaida (Natalia Reyes). But in order to convince her family of his suitability, he must convince Úrsula (Carmiña Martínez), the family’s powerful matriarch, that he is appropriate as a candidate. After succeeding to provide the dowry for the marriage through a small-scale sale of cannabis to some American activists, Rapayet marries Zaida and promptly establishes a small drug cartel. For the rest of the movie, Birds of Passage highlights the conflict between tradition and novelty, family and society, greed and empathy.
These central conflicts demand a central focus on the characters – and it is precisely here that the feature succeeds extremely well. Rapayet is very much a victim of the times, in that he is forced to engage in the cannabis trade in order to provide for his family and is later required to act violently; Úrsula’s world is torn to shreds with the novelty of a global trade, forcing her to cling tightly onto the traditions she grew up with; Zaida’s passivity is enforced upon her through an unforgiving world that only enables the patriarch and the matriarch to act as active agents.
All these aspects make Birds of Passage worthy of any recommendation. It isn’t perfect – the plot isn’t exactly original despite its flawless execution, and some of the slower moments go on a tad too long – but this hardly mars an overall enjoyable movie, which allows us to see an old tale from an entirely unique perspective.
Birds of Passage is released in select cinemas and on demand on 17th May 2019.
Watch the trailer for Birds of Passage here: