Naked and spectacular

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Birds of Passage [2018] by Cristina Gallego, Ciro Guerra

Birds of Passage (image 1)

Opening night at the New Zealand International Film Festival in Auckland offered Birds of Passage, a complex juxtaposition of the traditional ways of the Wayuu people with the rising drug trade.

In Colombia 1968, in the land of the Wayuu people, the land of dust and goats, they have survived centuries of colonisation with their traditional culture intact.  The matriarch of the family speaks with the spirits through her dreams and protects her family with her precious talisman, which she always carries with her.  But a budding capitalist takes an interest in her daughter, they marry and the family is drawn into the full implications of large-scale trafficking of cannabis.

This film is a spectacular and ambitious encounter with a small world, that of the Wayuu people, encountering not the exploitation of the larger world, as one would expect, but simply its ideology and its practices: making as much money for your clan as possible, building your tiny empire and destroying all opposition.  The film is like an alegory for capitalism itself, the history of civilisation condensed down to the narrative of a single indigenous clan's "successfull" encounter with the ways of the modern world.

The world of the film is rich and reverberates on all levels.  It does not compromise for its genre, but rather the gangster genre itself is manipulated for the sake of the coherency of the film's world.  A magnificent, concise epic.

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