What happens when you take Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas, move it to Colombia and take out any semblance of plot or story? You get Mambo Cool, a new feature by the New York-born anthropologist and filmmaker Chris Gude. Fixing his gaze on the indigent underworld of drug addicts and prostitutes in the city of Medellín (a community with which Gude lived and worked for several years before making the film), Gude adopts a poetic, oneiric style complete with trippy angles and moody lighting, that brings us into the subjective experience of addiction and marginality where time seems to stand still and one experience blends with the next in a sort of unending delirium.
Focusing on a handful of characters based on individuals Gude met in his time working in Medellín, Mambo Cool features a succession of banal, quotidian conversations about money, friends, drugs, and physical maladies that nevertheless reveal a level humanity and depth in these otherwise invisible characters.
Of course, the political implications of a foreigner representing decadence and degeneracy in a country trying desperately to make over its image are questionable, and one local periodical seemed rather incensed by the fact that Colombia’s national fund for cinema, Proimagenes, would underwrite such a film. But we’ll leave it up to you to decide whether sometimes art can transcend politics. Either way, this is certainly a novel approach to the time-worn subject of poverty and marginality in Colombia’s urban slums.