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  • Colin Fraser


FIVE STARS A remote Colombian community turns to drug trafficking. The results are catastrophic for everyone.


Starring José Acosta, Carmiña Martínez

BIRDS OF PASSAGE is one of the most outstanding films you could see this year. Ostensibly a story about drug cartels in a remote corner of Colombia, it is also a provocative exploration about what happens when we forget our institutions, our rituals and our responsibilities.

Needing fast finance for his wedding, Rapayet falls in with an old friend and together they make a deal with a local weed farmer. Rapa makes good money, gets married and sensing opportunity, continues to make good money; it’s a win for him, his new family and his village as well as the farmer, his family and village. Together they wilfully ride a bull market.

Initially, Rapa’s business succeeds because of ancient ties that bind his people. There’s respect for the old ways that work as a check-and-balance for the family and village as well as the clans they deal with. A flood of new money undoes those ties very quickly, rituals and institutions are abandoned and with them the structures that keep their trade afloat and people safe. The consequences are catastrophic.

BIRDS OF PASSAGE is in every way an arthouse movie, the kind of film that celebrates the art of filmmaking without keeping an eye on its audience. It is set in Colombia’s desolate north, characters speak an indigenous language, scenes are languid and evocatively shot when they’re not purposefully surreal: it’s everything a crowd-pleasing studio film is not and the payoff is sizeable.

Directors Cristina Gallego and Ciro Guerra (2015’s formidable EMBRACE OF THE SERPENT) have crafted another unforgettable experience, one that challenges how we look at society and accept its erosion by the forces of capitalism. Wrapped up in some truly astounding production work (Gallego’s cinematography is mesmerising), it’s a rare chance to enjoy the kind of film they don’t make any more.

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