HUMMINGBIRDS – Review by Cortland Jacoby

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There’s a visual and emotional warmth that oozes out of Hummingbirds. Centering on its directors, Silvia Del Carmen Castaños and Estefanía “Beba” Contreras, the documentary follows the two friends around their Texas border town of Laredo. From its golden hues to the love and easiness between them, the film, produced and co-directed by Miguel Drake-McLaughlin, Diane Ng, Ana Rodriguez-Falcó, and Jillian Schlesinger, is a simple, yet captivating character study between platonic soulmates.

In an early scene, we witness Contreras make a phone call on speakerphone with Castaños by their side. They’re calling to check her visa status, having crossed over the Rio Grande with their her mother as a child. Because of their need for financial assistance, they are told that they will have to fill out a new set of forms, forcing them to push back their ability to get a job. You would think that Contreras’ immigration status would be the whole point of the documentary, but it isn’t.

As cameras follow Castaños and Contreras around Laredo, we learn of their likes and dislikes. We see Contreras give their friend feedback on a song she is writing. They hang out with their other friends, throw a birthday party at a bowling alley, and play bingo with Contreras’s mother.

It’s the editing that amplifies what makes this friendship so interesting. Isidore Bethel and Jillian Schlesinger intersperse scenes of them talking about their hopes and traumas with trips to Whataburger. In true young adult fashion, the friends scream-sing We Are Young by Fun while waiting for their food. It’s a trope that will continue throughout the film, both friends breaking into song at any point.

Towards the film’s end, Castaños is driving them around when they ask, “When did you decide I was your best friend? Without missing a beat Contreras responds with, “You had a car.” They giggle before moving on with the conversation when a specific comment is said that sums up the entire documentary

“When we started hanging out, I wasn’t myself yet.”

Not every documentary has to be devastating or urgent. Some can be easy and just as wise as hanging out with an old friend. That’s the brilliance of Hummingbirds.

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Cortland Jacoby

Cortland Jacoby is a critic and writer based in the DC area. Her work can be seen on Punch Drunk Critics, Showbiz Cheat Sheet, Ranker, and Game Rant. While she writes a lot of reviews, she loves to conduct interviews and attend film festivals. She is also a member of the Washington Area Film Critics Association.