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  • Fiona Prior

Birds of Passage

Birds of Passage

Director: Ciro Guerra and Cristina Gallegos

Did you see Director Ciro Guerra’s film ‘Embrace of the Serpent’?

It was an extraordinary film – like a reversal of 'Heart of Darkness' – where the ‘gringos’ push into the Amazon region seeking rubber ‒ and then something of even more value. An old Shaman witnesses the havoc wreaked and we experience a mystical and chaotic journey through his eyes.

In ‘Birds of Passage’ the location is Columbia, the time-frame is the 70’s and this time the gringos are after marijuana. Our story is the lightning journey of two families in their trajectory from subsistence to extreme wealth that comes from dealing in this lucrative crop.

The movie is mesmerising. The landscapes are severe and extremely beautiful, while the cast evokes the pride of a traditional peoples and a culture of honour and respect. The insertion of this new export crop brings blood-shed and chaos – all foreseen by the natural symbols and talismans of that evaporating culture. You will continually feel you are watching a documentary, so convincing are the actors, the sets and the dialogue.

Guns and cash crops are hidden in ancient and sacred burial sites; old families who traditionally have worked and traded together are now enemies and emerging into kin-based drug cartels; violence is rampant and the tribes oldest dream-talker loses her abilities to communicate with the spirits – it becomes apparent that the family has lost its soul.

An old shepherd tells the history of this destruction so that it is not lost after his death. The old man wishes that the story of his tribe's rapid and bloody degradation be preserved and not lost, like so much of its traditional culture.

This movie is amazing.

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