Unlike other films related to the drug trade, “Birds of Passage” combines a look into a remote culture with growing marijuana as well as coffee beans and tribal traditions, family honor and feuds. Violence is interwoven with the lifestyle and as a result the film is illuminating as well as jolting.
Directors Cristina Gallego and Ciro Guerra escort us into a part of Colombia inhabited by the remote, indigenous Wayuu people, who have their own language, and who, as detailed in the story, become involved in the drug business. Despite the dangers, profits are to be made. We see a mix of interesting characters, and also deadly rivalries that explode in inevitable killing.
The screenplay has been written by Maria Camila Arias and co-director Gallego. The film is stunning to look at, as we are transported into the attractive countryside setting for the events that occur, both within families and in relation to drug-buying contacts. The peaceful look of the area contrasts with the passions that rage in the context of traditions and the lurking dangers.
In the midst of it all is a planned marriage. The bride to be is the youg Zaida, played by Natalia Reyes. The groom to be is the more worldly Raphayet, portrayed by José Acosta, who becomes involved in the marijuana trade in quest of money that he needs.
One of the film’s more interesting characters is the matriarchal Úrsula, who is Zaida’s controlling mother, played by the impressive Carmiña Martinez and exercising her will as the story unfolds.
Be prepared for the film’s mounting violence. But the reward is a look at a part of the world about which you are likely to know little and which certainly merits the dramatic exploration to be found in “Birds of Passage.” A The Orchard release. Reviewed February 13, 2019.