TIFF 2018: Our Review of ‘Birds of Passage’

TIFF 2018: Our Review of ‘Birds of Passage’

Listen to your mother. Carmina Martinez plays Ursula, a matriarch of a Wayuu clan who releases her daughter Zaida (Natalia Reyes) into the world. Unfortunately that world falls apart on her all because of Rapayet (Jose Acosta). He’s an upstart ‘businessman’ who successfully assimilated into the world outside Wayuu territory.

Ursula is against the idea of Rapayet courting Zaida because he doesn’t respect Wayuu traditions. But even she foregoes her own advice as she sees that she benefits from his shady dealings. Co-directors Ciro Guerra and Cristina Gallego show this downfall in a manner more straightforward than their previous work.

Audiences have been warm to Birds of Passage. But a minority, including my editor, who have legitimate criticisms against this movie. I wrongfully concluded that it’s because this is the kind of acid trip that was Embrace of the Serpent. That could always go sideways, but it doesn’t here, thankfully.

The storytelling here is classical, showing Ursula’s downfall in five acts. This is also a compromise between that tradition and the dreamy landscapes in Embrace. Here we see the Zaida’s occasional, ominous dreams that only Ursula can interpret. These colorful scenes blend into reality and evoke Frida Kahlo’s simple surrealism.

Gallego adds a lot by by taking one of the two directors chairs. She highlights a social consciousness that was already within Guerra’s solo projects. Rapayet ingratiates himself within the drug trade. Drugs are, of course, bad, but the movie shows this as just one of capitalism’s ways to oppress.

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While Paolo Kagaoan is not taking long walks in shrubbed areas, he occasionally watch movies and write about them. His credentials are as follows: he has a double major in English and Art History. This means that, for example, he will gush at the art direction in the Amityville house and will want to live there, which is a terrible idea because that house has ghosts. Follow him @paolokagaoan on Instagram but not while you're working.
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