BIRDS OF PASSAGE – Review by Susan Granger

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Colombia’s submission for the Foreign Language Oscar refutes the stereotypical depiction of that country’s drug trade, particularly on shows like Netfix’s popular Narcos.

Instead, filmmakers Cristina Gallego and Ciro Guerra (“Embrace the Serpent”) focus on the chaos and carnage caused by American “hippie” Peace Corps workers who smuggle marijuana in the 1970s.

Their desire of cannabis exploits a rural Wayuu tribe whose ancient values and traditions are devastated by what came to be known as the “Bonanaza Marimbera.”

Suspicious of outsiders, called “alijunas” or “the ones who do damage,” in the Wayuu world, dreams and reality intersect.

The linear narrative is structured in five installments, called “cantos.” Each takes place within the confines of the isolated, indigenous people, who speak an amalgam of Arawak and Spanish.

In the opening sequence, Zaida (Natalia Reyes) performs a traditional coming-of-age dance and is approached by Rapayet (Jose Acosta). Dismissed by her powerful mother, Ursula (Carmina Martinez), because he cannot pay her hefty dowry, Rapayet is determined to prove his worth.

With his trigger-happy buddy (Jhon Narvaez), Rapayet makes a deal with his cousin (Juan Martinez) who runs a huge mountain plantation. Time passes. Like a crime family ‘Godfather,’ Rahayet’s drug empire grows, along with his extended family, particularly Zayda’s lawlessly psychopathic younger brother (Greider Meza).

As Ursula prophetically says, “What’s hard is not making a family. It’s keeping it together.”

On the Granger Movie Gauge of 1 to 10, Birds of Passage is an epic, ethnographic 8, its vivid images relentlessly rich in social context.

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Susan Granger

Susan Granger

Susan Granger is a product of Hollywood. Her natural father, S. Sylvan Simon, was a director and producer at R.K.O., M.G.M. and Columbia Pictures; her adoptive father, Armand Deutsch, produced movies at M.G.M. As a child, Susan appeared in movies with Abbott & Costello, Red Skelton, Lucille Ball, Margaret O'Brien and Lassie. She attended Mills College in California, studying journalism with Pierre Salinger, and graduated from the University of Pennsylvania, Phi Beta Kappa, with highest honors in journalism. During her adult life, Susan has been on radio and television as an anchorwoman and movie/drama critic. Her newspaper reviews have been syndicated around the world, and she has appeared on American Movie Classics cable television. In addition, her celebrity interviews and articles have been published in REDBOOK, PLAYBOY, FAMILY CIRCLE, COSMOPOLITAN, WORKING WOMAN and THE NEW YORK TIMES, as well as in PARIS MATCH, ELLE, HELLO, CARIBBEAN WORLD, ISLAND LIFE, MACO DESTINATIONS, NEWS LIMITED NEWSPAPERS (Australia), UK DAILY MAIL, UK SUNDAY MIRROR, DS (France), LA REPUBBLICA (Italy), BUNTE (Germany), VIP TRAVELLER (Krisworld) and many other international publications through SSG Syndicate. Susan also lectures on the "Magic and Mythology of Hollywood" and "Don't Take It Personally: Conquering Criticism and other Survival Skills," originally published on tape by Dove Audio.