Keep up-to-date on your favourite artists and movies, track gig and release dates, and join in the conversation.
SEARCH RESULTS FOR
From zombie mutants to psychological terrors, click here to check out SWITCH's reviews from this year's Fantastic Film Festival!x
review, Birds of Passage, Birds, of, Passage, film, movie, latest movies, new movie, movie ratings, current movie reviews, latest films, recent movies, current movies, movie critics, new movie reviews, latest movie reviews, latest movies out, the latest movies, review film, latest cinema releases, Australian reviews, cinema, cinema reviews, Carmina Martíñez, José Acosta, Natalia Reyes, Jhon Narváez, Greider Meza, José Vicente, Ciro Guerra, Cristina Gallego film rating

PÁJAROS DE VERANO

★★★★

A VISUALLY STUNNING, NARCOTISED GANGSTER EPIC

THEATRICAL REVIEW
LATEST REVIEWS
By Jake Watt
29th September 2019

A vast part of the modern Colombian culture is inadvertently associated with the narcobusiness. Tales of Colombian narco-trafficking on film or television tend to focus on either the bloody rivalry between the cartels or the so-called war on drugs between the U.S. and the cartels. Most of the films that touch on this topic turn into boilerplate or worse (see the recent ‘Rambo: Last Blood’), but co-directors Ciro Guerra (‘Embrace of the Serpent‘) and Cristina Gallego’s ‘Birds of Passage’ takes a raw look at Colombian history and examines the impact of the drug trade on their country’s indigenous culture.

The indigenous Wayúu people of Colombia are farmers living in isolated communities. For centuries, they have refused to adjust to the world’s way of living and remain ardent advocates of tradition over development. In the late 1960s, a Wayúu man named Rapayet (Jose Acosta) and his uncle Peregrino arrives at a small village in La Guajira, the northernmost tip of Colombia, to offer a dowry of a necklace for the beautiful Zaida (Natalia Reyes). She emerges from her tent, offering a blanket she has made to an elder who accepts it and proclaims a celebration. This leads to one of the most memorable scenes in the movie: Rapayet and Zaida dancing the Yonna, a traditional dance where Zaida extends the sleeves of her flowing red dress so they look like wings and swoops around Rapayet like a bird of prey. Upon completion of the dance, Rapayet firmly tells her, “You are my woman.”

WATCH: 'BIRDS OF PASSAGE'

Later, while sitting in a bar, Rapayet hears about some young Americans working in the Peace Corps who are looking for a bit of weed to smoke. Sensing an opportunity, he and his non-Wayúu friend Moisés (Jhon Narvaez) visit his cousin Anibal (Juan Bautista Martinez), who owns a plantation that produces marijuana (which the locals use as an ointment). The two men begin selling the marijuana crops to American smugglers, with the support of matriarch and spiritual healer Ursula (Carmina Martinez). As they count their money and watch the hippies partying and smoking dope, Moises remarks: “Weed is the world’s happiness.”

It’s the beginning of the trade which eventually brings tragedy to the people of Wayúu. In the space of a few decades, donkeys turn into luxury vehicles and tents are upgraded to mansions that sit in the middle of the barren desert land like some kind of art project. By the 1970s, Rapayet and his clan are wealthy and well-armed. But so are other clans. “If there’s family, there’s respect. If there’s respect, there’s honour. If there’s honour, there’s word. If there’s word, there’s peace,” we’re informed early on, but drug money divides family into rival gangs, and turns Zaida’s kid brother Leonidas (Greider Meza) into a sadistic gangster in the ‘Scarface’ mould. Hasty actions trigger an escalating ripple of devasting violence.

There’s a dark joke running all the way through ‘The Godfather, Part II’: this family, the Corleones, that had always put family above all else is now a family destroying itself from the inside. Aside from a similar emphasis on family, there are plenty of other comparisons to be made to Francis Ford Coppola’s crime saga - specifically the sections of ‘The Godfather’ set in Sicily, another pastoral paradise where reveries are brutally cut down. Like Vito and Michael Corleone, Rapayet is a dutiful family man turned steely-eyed gangster. Like Sonny, Leonidas is a self-destructive hothead. Like Fredo, Moisés is an untrustworthy hedonist with a dubious fashion sense.

Neo-capitalism enters the Wayúu‘s Garden of Eden like a snake riding an atomic bomb, ‘Dr. Strangelove’ style.

Co-directors Gallego and Guerra, working with a story based on historical research, use the form of a religious fable, with the film divided into five chapters ("cantos"): Wild Grass, The Graves, Prosperity, The War and Limbo. The priestesses hurl curses, rituals dominate some scenes and the presence of the spirit world, expressed in the film's shots of the desert and forest, is never far. At its heart, this is a morality tale about greed entering a culture which previously had nothing to fight over. Neo-capitalism enters the Wayúu‘s Garden of Eden like a snake riding an atomic bomb, ‘Dr. Strangelove’ style.

Businessman Rapayet and shaman Ursula represent the push-pull forces at work - new and old, the material and the spiritual. Throughout the film Ursula is seen as an oracle-like figure: she interprets Zaida’s dream about her grandmother as a death omen and she accurately predict the ill fortune. The Wayúu value material goods - the desire to find a dowry for a bride is a catalyst for the story - and admire those skilled in trading and fighting, traits that have helped the ethnic minority survive on the margins of Colombia. The story poetically blends these ideas with the bloody and often lurid tale of a kingpin's rise to power, turning the ascetic first half of the film into a violence-driven spectacle (ala ‘Traffic’, ‘Sicario’, ‘Escobar: Paradise Lost’, etc) - a game of sending messengers and spraying bullets.

Stunningly shot by cinematographer David Gallego, ‘Birds of Passage’ features panoramic views of deserts, serpentine trails of donkeys carrying sacks of freshly-dried weed, and a few Jodorowsky-esque dream sequences. Colours feature prominently, with rich reds for the wedding and blues for a funeral service. The depth of field, the patience of the camera, the particular colour palette, and the diegetic lighting all contribute to the aesthetic. A dichotomy in this visual narrative is what really charms in the first half of the film. It’s more of a documentary than a scripted story.

‘Birds of Passage’ feels like a gangster epic anchored by a people seeing their world view slowly slipping from their sight. It manages to make a narco narrative feel new and visually stunning on a broad dreamlike canvas, taking a creaky old Hollywood genre and moulding it into something altogether more entrancing.

FAST FACTS
AKA: Birds Of Passage
RELEASE DATE: 03/10/2019
RUN TIME: 2h 5m
CAST: Carmina Martíñez
José Acosta
Natalia Reyes
Jhon Narváez
Greider Meza
José Vicente
DIRECTORS: Ciro Guerra
Cristina Gallego
WRITERS: Maria Camila Arias
Jacques Toulemonde Vidal
PRODUCERS: Nicolás Celis
Sebastián Celis
Cristina Gallego
Eva Jakobsen
Mikkel Jersin
Katrin Pors
Sandino Saravia
Dan Wechsler
Jamal Zeinal Zade
SCORE: Leonardo Heiblum
www.birdsofpassage.com.au
birdsofpassagemovie
birdspassage
birdsofpassage
TOP-RATED REVIEWS
Honeyland - Two-time Oscar-nominated film flies into Aussie cinemas
TRENDINGWIN HONEYLANDTwo-time Oscar-nominated film flies into Aussie cinemas
The Invisible Man - Paranoia, gaslighting and spookiness
TRENDINGTHE INVISIBLE MANParanoia, gaslighting and spookiness
Happy Ending - An extra-wrinkly sex comedy
TRENDINGHAPPY ENDINGAn extra-wrinkly sex comedy
In My Blood It Runs - An eye-opening tale of struggling Indigenous youth
TRENDINGIN MY BLOOD IT RUNSAn eye-opening tale of struggling Indigenous youth
Gallipoli - A powerful and important film remembered
TRENDINGGALLIPOLIA powerful and important film remembered
A Guide to Second Date Sex - A quintessentially awkward British romantic comedy
TRENDINGA GUIDE TO SECOND DATE SEXA quintessentially awkward British romantic comedy
Backtrack Boys - Heart-rending and inspiring
TRENDINGBACKTRACK BOYSHeart-rending and inspiring
Children of the Sea - Sunk by a soggy script
TRENDINGCHILDREN OF THE SEASunk by a soggy script
Guns Akimbo - Just like Harry Potter but with guns and more violence... not really
TRENDINGGUNS AKIMBOJust like Harry Potter but with guns and more violence... not really
Standing Up For Sunny - A comedy without the comedy but very sweet
TRENDINGSTANDING UP FOR SUNNYA comedy without the comedy but very sweet
Blue - A thought-provoking underwater journey
TRENDINGBLUEA thought-provoking underwater journey
Honey Boy - Shia LaBeouf turns his darkest times into an artistic masterpiece
TRENDINGHONEY BOYShia LaBeouf turns his darkest times into an artistic masterpiece
The Professor and the Madman - Mel Gibson's dictionary origin story a dry read
TRENDINGTHE PROFESSOR AND THE MADMANMel Gibson's dictionary origin story a dry read
Revisiting 'Dark City' 20 years later - The most underrated and influential sci-fi film ever?
TRENDINGREVISITING 'DARK CITY' 20 YEARS LATERThe most underrated and influential sci-fi film ever?
Lion - A raw and powerful journey of identity
TRENDINGLIONA raw and powerful journey of identity
Danger Close: The Battle of Long Tan - Close to home
TRENDINGDANGER CLOSE: THE BATTLE OF LONG TANClose to home
Midsommar - Ari Aster brings the gore but lacks the emotion
TRENDINGMIDSOMMARAri Aster brings the gore but lacks the emotion
Buffy - A 20th anniversary love letter
TRENDINGBUFFYA 20th anniversary love letter
The Golden Glove - Repellent and pointless
TRENDINGTHE GOLDEN GLOVERepellent and pointless
H is for Happiness - A heartwarming family tale about finding optimism in the world
TRENDINGH IS FOR HAPPINESSA heartwarming family tale about finding optimism in the world
© 2011 - 2020 midnightproductions
All rights reserved

Support SWITCH | Disclaimer | Contact Us