Birds of Passage (2019)


Direction: Ciro Guerra and Cristina Gallego
Country: Colombia

Notable Colombian director Ciro Guerra, here teaming up with debutant Cristina Gallego, has carved his own style with stunning works that speak for themselves. Birds of Passage succeeds to the mesmerizing Oscar-nominated adventure that was Embrace of the Serpent in his short yet exceptional filmography. Even not as striking as the latter, this new film provides extraordinary moments of mature cinema.

Divided into five acts and inspired by real events, the film, written by Maria Camila Arias and Jacques Toulemonde, boasts an effective narrative delineated with refinement, integrity, and a cultivated cinematic sensibility that unfolds in a mixed style that incorporates the mysticism associated with the indigenous Wayuu clan traditions of the Guajira Peninsula in the northernmost part of Colombia and the violent, materialistic world of the noir gangster movies.

Rapayet (José Acosta) is not doing so well in his coffee trade, struggling financially to pay the heavy dowry asked by the family of his intended wife, Zaida (Natalia Reyes). The latter was conveniently prepared to embrace the role of a dedicated wife. Her mother, Ursula (Carmiña Martínez), the superstitious, ambitious and reasonably cautious matriarch who communicates with the spirits, taught her everything she must know.


Rapayet's solution to the problem consists in teaming up with the voracious Montcho (Jhon Narváez), a childhood friend from a different ethnicity, and sell marijuana to the Americans, a very lucrative business that will cast aside any economic difficulty. However, tragedy and war struck the indigenous family, firstly due to Montcho’s shameless criminal practices and obsession for power, and secondly, due to Leonidas (Greider Meza), Ursula’s vile and vicious younger son.

In addition to David Gallego’s delightful cinematography, which captures both luxurious and arid landscapes with the same exuberance, we have enthralling folk music connected to ancient traditions, dreams, allegories, and premonitions in a stylized, hybrid tale of power, love, vendetta, and honor. This is powerful cinema.