Columbian filmmakers Cristina Gallego and Ciro Guerra (Embrace of the Serpent) directed essentially the Columbian Godfather with their new film Birds of Passage, last year’s Oscar submission for the country. It all starts with a dowry and the drive of men guided by greed (technically Capitalism by name, in the face of rising socialism in the late 60s), and a slow climb into the drug trade gradually unravels a shrinking native population’s survival between clans. José Acosta as Rapayet is a subdued boss gripping the head of a marijuana middleman empire while his mother-in-law Úrsula–a stoic, brilliant Carmiña Martínez–maintains tradition and thwarts any separation Rapayet tries to put between her and her descendants.
Steeped in vibrant culture and damning superstition, Gallego’s and Guerra’s film captures exactly what I love to see on screen: regardless of the pedigree of the actors, an effective powerhouse of a film without pretense exploring a rarely explored demographic and doing it with style. Birds of Passage (or South Korea’s Burning) certainly deserved Germany’s Never Look Away’s spot in last year’s Oscar race.