Birds of Passage (Pajaros de verano)


Birds in plume.

(2018) Crime Drama (The Orchard) Carmiña Martinez, Josė Acosta, Natalia Reyes, Jhon Narváez, Greider Meza, Josė Vincente Cote, Juan Bautista Martinez, Miguel Viera, Sergio Coen, Aslenis Márquez, Josė Naider, Yanker Diaz, Victor Montero, Joaquin Ramón, Jorge Lascarro, Germán Epieyu, Luisa Alfaro, Merija Uriana. Directed by Cristina Gallego and Ciro Guerra

 

Some movies are great because of technical achievements. Others are great because their story has universal appeal. Others achieve greatness through a combination of those elements. Rarely, a film makes greatness because of an ineffable quality all its own.

In Northern Colombia, the Wayuu people have lived speaking their own language, with their own traditions and customs for thousands of years. They do not trust Spanish speaking Colombians whose culture is as alien to them as Japan’s might be; in fact, many Colombians are unfamiliar with the Wayuu.

At the beginning of the movie (which is divided into five cantos, or songs), Zaida (Reyes), the daughter of the clan matriarch Úrsula (C. Martinez), is celebrating her coming of age. Her position makes her quite a catch for the men of the clan. One, Rapayet (Acosta) is particularly eager to claim Zaida as his bride but Úrsula is less sanguine about the idea. She gives him a ridiculously high dowry of 30 goats, 20 cows and five precious necklaces. Rapayet, who is regarded with suspicion by the clan because he has had business dealings with non-Wayuu, is nonetheless determined to make Zaida his wife. He and his partner Moisės (Narváez) have been picking coffee beans and selling them but a chance encounter with American Peace Corps volunteers leads them to a more valuable cash crop – marijuana.

With gringo pilots set to deliver the goods to market and leaving them ridiculous amounts of cash, Rapayet prevails on fellow clan member Anibal (J.B. Martinez) to use part of his ranch to grow weed for him which they sell to the Americans at a massive profit. At first the arrangement works swimmingly and both Anibal and Rapayet become wealthy with the latter able to afford the dowry and wed Zaida much to the matriarch’s dismay. However, she eventually gets with the program when she sees the money and prestige her new son-in-law is bringing to the clan.

But things aren’t ducky for long. First, Moisės proves to be something of a loose cannon. Then, the son of Úrsula proves to be even worse, a disrespectful, entitled lout whose indiscretions threaten to bring the clan to a civil war. Rapayet is only able to watch helplessly as everything he loves – his family, his clan, his culture – slowly begin to circle the drain.

This is quite simply put a masterpiece of Latin American cinema. Gallego and Guerra – who directed the Oscar-nominated Embrace of the Serpent – have outdone even that movie with a film that is lyrical in content but with elements of a tragedy as well as a crime drama all rolled into one. While not at the level of The Godfather it is still a movie that is going to make a whole lot of impact on the genre.

The cinematography is breathtaking, from the lavish luxury of Rapayet’s hacienda, the desolation of the empty plain it sits on, the simple beauty of the village, the lavish costumes of the villagers and the beauty that is Colombia. It is a gorgeous movie to watch. There are moments and images that will stay with you for a very long time.

While the movie takes place between 1968 through 1980, the timelessness of the lives of the Wayuu really doesn’t give those of us who are urbanized a sense of period. That the story is so compelling also contributes to the timelessness of the movie – greed and pride often do lead to a fall and therein lies the tragedy. One ends up wondering if the drug importing hadn’t been introduced to the clan would they have ended up being happier? Certainly, more of them would have been left alive.

Clearly the filmmakers have a great abiding respect for the Wayuu culture and just as clearly much research was done into it. The co-directors are adept at telling their story and it never seems to go in the direction you think it’s going to with few exceptions. There is a bit of an element of morality play here but at the end of the day this is masterful film making that should be at the top of every film buff’s must-see list this year.

REASONS TO SEE: The filmmakers clearly have a reverence and respect for native cultures. The cinematography is absolutely gorgeous. The story is a compelling one. This film never goes in the direction that you think it’s going to.
REASONS TO AVOID: The violence can be brutal and graphic which may offend the sensitive.
FAMILY VALUES: There is a good deal of violence and profanity, brief nudity and a scene of sexuality.
TRIVIAL PURSUIT: The co-directors were married but divorced during the production of the film.
CRITICAL MASS: As of 3/20/19: Rotten Tomatoes: 94% positive reviews: Metacritic: 86/100.
COMPARISON SHOPPING: New Jack City
FINAL RATING: 10/10
NEXT:
Roll Red Roll

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New Releases for the Week of March 15, 2019


WONDER PARK

(Paramount) Starring the voices of Jennifer Garner, Matthew Broderick, John Oliver, Mila Kunis, Kenan Thompson, Ken Jeong, Brianna Denski. Directed by Josh Applebaum, Andrė Nemec and Robert Gordon

An imaginative young girl creates an entire theme park in her imagination. As she grows older, she puts her fantasy aside and moves on. Then one day while walking through the woods, she finds a theme park overgrown and falling apart – it’s the same one she imagined those years ago, complete with the characters she invented. Now in order to save it she’ll have to put her imagination into overdrive!

See the trailer here
For more on the movie this is the website

Genre: Animated Feature
Now Playing: Wide Release

Rating: PG (for some mild thematic elements and action)

Birds of Passage

(The Orchard) Josė Acosta, Natalia Reyes, Carmiña Martinez, Jhon Naráez. During the rise of the Colombian cocaine cartels of the 1970s, an indigenous man gets caught up in drug trafficking despite the disapproval of the tribe matriarch. His pride and greed will plunge the tribe into a bloody war where the innocent will suffer along with the guilty.

See the trailer here
For more on the movie this is the website

Genre: Drama
Now Playing: Enzian Theater

Rating: NR

Captive State

(Focus) John Goodman, Vera Farmiga, D.B. Sweeney, Ashton Sanders. Following the occupation of the Earth by an alien invasion, the lives of those on both sides of the conflict – collaborators and rebels – are examined.

See the trailer here
For more on the movie this is the website

Genre: Sci-Fi Horror
Now Playing: Wide Release

Rating: PG-13 (for Sci-Fi violence and action, some sexual content, brief language and drug material)

Climax

(A24) Sofia Boutella, Romain Guillermic, Souheila Yacoub, Kiddy Smile. On a wintry night a troupe of dancers rehearses in an abandoned school building. Following rehearsal, they decide to party through the night only to discover to their horror that the sangria they’ve been pounding down is laced with a potent psychotropic drug. Chaos descends into madness as the troupe is overtaken by lust and violence.

See the trailer here
For more on the movie this is the website

Genre: Horror
Now Playing: Regal Winter Park Village

Rating: R (for disturbing content involving a combination of drug use, violent behavior and strong sexuality, and for language and some graphic nudity)

Five Feet Apart

(CBS) Haley Lu Richardson, Cole Sprouse, Moises Arias, Parminder Nagra. A teenage girl with cystic fibrosis falls in love with a fellow sufferer of the disease. However, the nature of their disease is that the two can’t even touch for fear of setting off potentially fatal complications. Yet another dying teen romance movie for the angst-driven.

See the trailer, clips, a promo and a video featurette here
For more on the movie this is the website

Genre: Young Adult Romance
Now Playing: Wide Release

Rating: PG-13 (for thematic elements, language and suggestive material)

Let’s Live (Chaal Jeevi Laiye)

(Rising Star) Siddharth Randeria, Yash Soni, Aarohi Patel, Aruna Irani. A young man puts his life on the back burner while trying to build a business until his father is diagnosed with a potentially fatal disease. Wanting to fulfill one of his most precious wishes, he and his father go on a road trip where they meet a free-spirited backpacker who will ultimately bring the two men closer together.

See the trailer here
For more on the movie this is the website

Genre: Dramedy
Now Playing: AMC West Oaks

Rating: PG-13 (for thematic elements, some suggestive comments, and brief language)

No Manches Frida 2

(Pantelion) Omar Chaparro, Martha Higareda, Aarón Diaz, Itati Cantoral. The sequel to the hit comedy starts with a wedding…almost. Chaos at the beach wedding forces Lucy to call of the nuptials to Zequi. To make matters worse the school where they both work is about to close its doors and needs the winnings from a beach tournament in order to continue to exist. To make matters worse the coach of the rival team is a former grade school crush of Lucy…who has turned into a hot hunk. Zequi will need to pull out all his ingenuity to beat his rivals, keep the school from shutting down and to win Lucy back.

See the trailer here
For more on the movie this is the website

Genre: Comedy
Now Playing: AMC Disney Springs, Epic Theaters at Lee Vista, Regal The Loop

Rating: R (for sexual content and teen drinking)

Ruben Brandt, Collector

(Sony Classics) Starring the voices of Iván Kamarás, Matt Devere, Henry Grant, Peter Linka. A famous psychotherapist is forced to steal great paintings in order to quell the nightmares in his head due to subliminal messaging he received as a child.

See the trailer here
For more on the movie this is the website

Genre: Animated Feature
Now Playing: Regal Winter Park Village

Rating: R (for nude images and some violence)

To Dust

(Good Deed) Matthew Broderick, Geza Röhrig, Sammy Voit, Sarah Jes Austell. A cantor for an upstate New York Hassidic Jewish community is grieving over the untimely death of his wife from cancer. Tormented by nightmares of his wife’s decomposing body and looking for answers as to what happens to the body after death, he seeks out a biology professor to explain the process when his religion can’t.

See the trailer and video featurette here
For more on the movie this is the website

Genre: Dramedy
Now Playing: Regal Winter Park Village

Rating: NR

ALSO OPENING IN ORLANDO/DAYTONA:

Faith, Hope & Love
Nancy Drew and the Hidden Staircase
Patterns of Evidence: The Moses Controversy
Slipaway

ALSO OPENING IN MIAMI/FT. LAUDERDALE:

Bruce!!!!
Combat Obscura
Nancy Drew and the Hidden Staircase
Patterns of Evidence: The Moses Controversy
Yardie

ALSO OPENING IN TAMPA/ST. PETERSBURG:

Chimera Strain
Nancy Drew and the Hidden Staircase
Patterns of Evidence: The Moses Controversy
Pranam Kharledu
The Wedding Guest
Woman at War

ALSO OPENING IN JACKSONVILLE/ST. AUGUSTINE:

Nancy Drew and the Hidden Staircase
Patterns of Evidence: The Moses Controversy

SCHEDULED FOR REVIEW:

Birds of Passage
Captive State
To Dust
Wonder Park

Pick of the Litter – February 2019


BLOCKBUSTER OF THE MONTH

Alita: Battle Angel

(20th Century Fox) Rosa Salazar, Christoph Waltz, Jennifer Connelly, Mahershala Ali. In the future the world will be divided into those above and those below – the haves and the have-nots. A man from down below finds a robot on the scrapheap and restores her meticulously, giving her the name of Alita. He soon realizes that Alita is something special – the last known remaining Battle Angel, the most advanced weapon ever devised. There are those who would stop at nothing to get control of her – and others who would stop at nothing to see her destroyed – but Alita will not be taken easily.  February 14

INDEPENDENT PICKS

Daughter of Mine

(Strand) Valeria Golino, Alba Rohrwacher, Sara Casu, Udo Kier. Two women fight over the custody of a little girl; the woman who has raised her in a loving environment and her birth mother who has changed her mind and wants her back in her life. This is a powerful drama with no easy answers.  February 1

The Golem

(Epic) Hani Furstenberg, Ishai Golan, Brynie Furstenberg, Adi Kvetner. In Jewish mythology, a Golem is a creature created from clay that exists to exact revenge for its creator, but often turns on its maker. This new film is about a woman in the 19th century, a mystical whose village finds itself in the midst of a plague that is devastating the land,l She creates a Golem to help repel foreign invaders but as the old adage goes, the cure is worse than the disease. February 1

Sharkwater Extinction

(Freestyle) Rob Stewart, Will Allen, Brock Cahill, Regi Domingo. It is no secret that sharks are among the most feared creatures on earth but these largely misunderstood animals are being hunted to extinction. A courageous filmmaker tackles the illegal fishing industry, the powerful political and criminal forces behind it and what we must do to save the sharks before it is too late. February 1

Song of Parkland

(HBO) Melody Herzfeld. A year ago, a typical school day at Marjorie Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida was interrupted by the sound of gunfire. The drama department, deep in rehearsal for the annual kid’s show the school puts on was evacuated from the building amid chaos. When classes resumed again, the drama instructor Melody Herzfeld knew they had to finish what they started. This documentary shows how the show helped unite and heal a grieving student body and watches as they go from victims to activists making a real impact on the national debate for gun control. February 7

Everybody Knows

(Focus) Penelope Cruz, Javier Bardem, Ricardo Darin, Eduard Fernández. Her sister’s wedding is ore than enough reason for Laura to travel from Buenos Aires to Madrid and from thence to the small town she grew up in. However the happy occasion turns nightmarish when unexpected events bring long-buried family secrets out into the open. February 8

Birds of Passage

(The Orchard) Carmiña Martinez, José Acosta, Natalia Reyes, Jhon Narváez. An indigenous family in Central America becomes involved with the marijuana trade in the 70s. At first, their involvement brings money and prestige for them. However, with money comes violence which threatens to destroy the family as well as their culture. This is the latest film from the team that brought you Embrace of the Serpent. February 15

A Tuba to Cuba

(Nom de Guerre) Danny Clinch, T.G. Herrington, Han Soto, Nicelle Herrington. The legendary Preservation Hall Jazz Band of New Orleans is in many ways the face of American jazz. In order to better understand who they are, they embark on a journey to discover their own roots. That journey takes them to Cuba where they find that their sound is a bridge between two disparate peoples. February 15

Total Dhamaal

(Fox STAR) Ajay Devgn, Riteish Deshmukh, Arshad Warsi, Anil Kapoor. A group of motorists on a remote road in India come across a dying man who tells them of a buried treasure. It becomes a madcap race through adventure and peril to be the first to claim the fortune in this remake of the classic It’s a Mad, Mad, Mad, Mad World. February 22