Thursday, August 02, 2018

Birds of Passage

The Guajira Peninsula sticks out into the Caribbean Sea on the border between Colombia and Venezuela. It varies from dry desert-like conditions in the north to humid jungles in the south. It is the home of the Wayuu people. The Wayuu resisted colonization and refer to more Hispanic Colombians as Alijuna.
Birds of Passage is a story covering 20 years from the 1960s to 1980s of Raphayet who starts as a young man who with his urban Alijuna friend Moises trades coffee beans and alcohol. Raphayet falls in love with beautiful teenager Zaida at her coming out ceremony. Her mother, clan matriarch Ursula, demands an extreme dowry to dissuade the young man. But Raphayet and Moises see a couple of Peace Corps gringos who the local barman descibe as anti-communists who are really looking for cannabis. It happens that Raphayet's uncle Anibal lives in the hills and grows cannabis. A slight carreer change and soon Raphayet is ready with his dowry. Money is seductive and Raphayet and Moises continue their link in the drug trade between the Colombian jungles and America, enriching both Ursula's clan and Anibal's. But this is morality tale and there is a cost to pay. Violence, revenge and Zaida's spoilt little brother wreck havoc on both families.

There are slightly surreal elements to story. The house that Raphayet builds stands isolated in the desert and he is haunted by the ghost of his dead friend in the form of a heron.

Birds of Passage is visually beautiful and simple film. The story of how money changes relationships and can destroy subsistance cultures. While there are a few surpises, the first half is quite predictable, as is the ending.


Ian's rating 3/5

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