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A vibrant Colombian indigenous culture that’s survived centuries of colonisation takes on the 1970s drug trade in our visually and aurally astounding opener. Directors Ciro Guerra (Embrace of the Serpent, NZIFF16) and Cristina Gallego shake off the clichés of crime-war and imperialism and imbue their saga with surreal beauty and the elemental power of ancient proverb.
The film’s formidable matriarch (Carmiña Martínez) knows full well that the young chancer (José Acosta) who has courted her daughter (Natalia Reyes) could only have paid the outrageous dowry she demanded by selling dope to the gringos. But the seed is sown: insisting traditional honour codes be observed in enrichening her clan, she bends her shamanistic authority to building an empire in the desert.
“Colombians are sick to the back teeth of filmmakers exploiting their troubled past, but Gallego and Guerra’s inspired take on the blood feud yarn and mob thriller is really unique and far from cheap genre thrills as it gets. Birds of Passage is an enthralling, powerful statement.” — Martyn Conterio, Cinevue
“This is an absolutely extraordinary film… You do not have to have Wayuu ancestry, or any connection to the region to understand the broader implications of this epic story of haunted druglords and ruthless power grabs that are partly predicated on traditional beliefs and shibboleths. Guerra and Gallego’s film is no dusty period piece, it is wildly alive, yet it reminds us that no matter how modern we are, there are ancient songs our forebears knew whose melodies still rush in our blood.” — Jessica Kiang, The Playlist