Birds of Passage | Chicago Reader

Birds of Passage

Ciro Guerra and Cristina Gallego's follow-up to their 2015 gem Embrace of the Serpent is a stunner, from the bookend device of a blind bard who spins the tale of a legend at once local and universal (echoing antique roots in Homer and The Illiad) to the division of this Colombian drama's narrative into five cantos, or songs, which are distant cousins to the burgeoning narcocorrido Mexican musical genre and tie this drug-smuggling tale, circa 1968-1980, to the present. What at first seems like an ethnographic chronicle of an old Wayuu tribal mating ritual—an exotic dance where a marriageable young woman (Natalia Reyes) simulates a fiery bird to be captured—soon becomes a saga about the costs that her suitor (José Acosta) shoulders in order to win over her mother, the clan's revered matriarch (Carmiña Martinez). The swain labors hard for the required dowry, but he's smart and impatient, so when he stumbles upon a group of hippie Peace Corps volunteers who preach anti-communism but are also looking for weed, his solution, in its capitalist supply-and-demand paradigm, seems obvious. The alliance he enters with his relatives who farm the marijuana whose market he soon corners will threaten the family traditions he vowed to uphold. In Wayuu and Spanish with subtitles.

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