This drug-war drama is freshly alive, with deep analysis of human motivations and a history that Hollywood mostly ignores. Info
Editor’s note: This screening has been moved due to flooding in Vilas Hall.
Birds Of Passage is an at once vibrant and muted crime thriller, directed by filmmaking duo Cristina Gallego and Ciro Guerra, that never stops to wonder about the law. This shortlisted submission for the 2018 Foreign Language Oscar follows a family of the indigenous, northern Colombian Wayuu people through the opening decades of the drug trade. The Pushaina clan begins smuggling marijuana in the late 1960s when one ambitious young man, Rhapayat (José Acosta), seeks to pay a dowry that was meant to be too expensive for him. Defying the powerful matriarch Ursula (Carmina Martinez), Rhapayat supplies peace corps volunteers with bulk shipments of the powerful plant after teaming with his outsider friend Moisés and a cousin's rival family. As successfully stoned Americans frolic on the beach, a belligerent Moisés declares, "Weed is the world's happiness."
This innocuous line wraps the otherwise secluded group into a global black market, as they grow accustomed to unregulated prosperity. And when governments don't regulate capitalism, esoteric rituals do. Gorgeous ceremonies of birth, death, marriage, and the interchange of powerful objects permeate the flat desert, as the glories of international greed mingle with ancient rituals, and the worlds of business and family make conflicting demands of honor. Many of the array of characters express a sense of desperation, and the performances are mostly withdrawn, as the factions act out roles they didn't quite choose, both within their communities and on the world stage. After two decades of increasing precarity lead to entirely avoidable bloodshed, Rhapayat must prevent the explosion of his empire into total devastation. —Reid Kurkerewicz