BIRDS OF PASSAGE (PAJEROS DE VERANO)
(directors: Cristina Gallego, Ciro Guerra; screenwriters: story by Maria Camila Arias & Jacques Toulemonde, based on an original idea by Cristina Gallego; cinematographer: David Gallego; editor: Miguel Schverdfinger; music: Leonardo Heiblum; cast: Jose Acosta (Raphayet), Carmiña Martínez (Úrsula), Natalia Reyes (Zaida), Jhon Narváez (Moises), Juan Martínez (Aníbal), Greider Meza (Leonídas), José Vicente Cotes (Peregrino); Runtime: 125; MPAA Rating: NR; producers: Katrin Pors, Cristina Gallego; The Orchard; 2018-Denmark/Mexico-in Wayuu, Spanish and English with English subtitles)
“The marvelous film is an old-fashioned gangster flick set in a colorful traditional culture that gets caught up in the modern-day global world.”
Reviewed by Dennis Schwartz
Cristina Gallego and Ciro Guerra (“Embrace of the Serpent”) co-direct this true crime story of drug trade in northern Colombia that involved the indigenous Wayuu people of that picturesque region in the late 1960s and 1970s.
The Mafia-like story tells of a close-knit native family, the Rafayet family, unraveling when they get caught up in the international drug trade. The title has a double meaning-it relates to the various species of fowl that form the myths of the Native American Wayuu people and it also evokes the Cessnas and other light aircraft in the narrative that ship from that region marijuana to America. This sudden richness through drugs in the poor area sets off a wave of bloodshed that destroys their traditional culture.
The story by Maria Camila Arias and Jacques Toulemonde is from an idea by Gallego. In the late 1960s, in northern Colombia, Zaida (Natalia Reyes) performs a dance for suitors. A fringe clan member, Rapayet (José Acosta), shows an interest. But the matriarch Ursula (Carmiña Martínez) insists to be serious he must provide a hefty dowry of 50 goats, 20 cows and a certain number of ceremonial necklaces with the right kind of stones to become part of the family. While Rapayet hustles coffee with his Spanish-speaking buddy Moises (Jhon Narváez), he meets American members of the Peace Corps looking to score marijuana. Rapayet’s cousin Aníbal (Juan Martínez) grows the weed and is incorporated into the drug deal. Before you realize it, Rapayet is married to Zaida and Ursula’s primitives are scoring rich profits as drug runners. Trouble arises because Rapayet’s outsider buddy Moises doesn’t respect the Wayuu culture and violates it. It leads to bloody conflicts that never cease.
The filmmakers stay clear of the details of the drug operation while concentrating on the ill-effects it causes the family and the breakdown of an old culture. It covers many weddings, funerals and ritual meetings. Meanwhile a flustered Rapayet is lost over how bloody his simple plan to make money has become. The viewer gets to see some stunning visuals in the community ceremonies, and in the exotic Wayuu culture that has the women adorned in elaborate dresses and the men beneath the waist wear ceremonial skirts. The compound of Ursula’s is surreal and its all-white mansion stands out in the desert.
The marvelous film is an old-fashioned gangster flick set in a colorful traditional culture that gets caught up in the modern-day global world. The married co-directors divorce after the film wraps.
REVIEWED ON 2/1/2019 GRADE: B+