Birds of Passage
Drug money erodes an ancient way of life.
South American drug dramas are nothing new, “but you’ve never seen one like Birds of Passage,” said Peter Debruge in Variety. The subtitled and fact-based film, directed by the husband-wife duo behind 2015’s Embrace of the Serpent, chronicles the decades-long rise and fall of a Colombian drug kingpin and his family. The difference here is that the main characters are Wayuu, members of an indigenous Colombian tribe, and the powerful story focuses on how the drug trade undermines their rich culture. Raphayet, played by José Acosta, enters the trade by selling weed to Americans in the Peace Corps, and as he builds his empire, the movie “reaches for Godfather territory” in its Shakespearean flourishes, said Eric Kohn in IndieWire.com. But while Carmiña Martinez is outstanding as the family’s ruling matriarch, neither Raphayet nor his wife become distinctive three-dimensional characters. Birds has its eye on a larger story, though, that has resonance “far beyond the borders of Colombia,” said Jessica Kiang in ThePlaylist.net. In its gorgeous evocation of one tribe’s desert homeland and cultural rituals, the film reminds us that we are all creatures of ancient beliefs and myths, and all prone to greed. “This is an absolutely extraordinary film.”