Birds of Passage

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Rapayet (José Acosta) is poor and desires to marry Zaida (Natalia Reyes), and thus endeavors to trade marijuana with the Americans. This begins the loss of the Wayúu culture and tradition in a bloody tale that spans twenty years.

The Highs
Birds of Passage is a very beautiful film. The desolate desert contrasted with the vibrant colors of the traditional clothing is very aesthetically pleasing. Colombia has many astounding geographical aspects, and many of them are present here.

The cultural representation is fascinating, even if I’m ignorant to how accurate the depiction actually is. There are several mesmerizing scenes that blend emotion and color and tradition to create an experience that is unlike anything I’ve seen in any other film.

The themes present throughout are razor sharp and eternally relevant. It’s simultaneously interesting and disheartening to witness the beginnings of the drug trade, and the toll that it takes on the people involved. Especially those that are indirectly affected, becoming nothing more than collateral damage in the wake of greed. The importance of family and tradition is emphasized throughout, along with the consequences of disregarding them.

The Lows
Birds of Passage is a very, very slow film that culminates in a flickering flame rather than a raging inferno. The two hour run time builds up to an unsatisfying conclusion, leaving the rapist and initiator of strife supposedly alive. I understand the message behind Leonidas (Greider Meza) surviving, but it is frustrating for the audience and leaves a lingering sour taste. Perhaps that is the purpose.

Perhaps it is a result of not being a part of the culture, but I found myself unable to relate or sympathize with any of the characters in the film. None of them were really developed beyond their particular role, and many of the central ones also lacked any kind of identifying personality. Rapayet begins the film with purpose, but that disappears and he drifts lifelessly through the rest of the story. Zaida exists simply to have children and defy her mother. Úrsula (Carmina Martíñez) is one of the most annoying and frustrating characters I’ve dealt with in a film in recent memory.

Final Thoughts
Birds of Passage has some important things to say about tradition and family, but is ultimately a frustrating chore to watch due to its slow pace, dull plot, and empty characters.

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