After nabbing Colombia’s first-ever Oscar nomination for Best Foreign Language Film with his dreamy black-and-white colonial epic Embrace of the Serpent, director Ciro Guerra is back mining more of his country’s history. Co-directed with his wife Cristina Gallego, who served as a producer and editor on that Amazon-set film, Pájaros de verano (Birds of Passage) tells the origin story of the drug trade. The film is set in the dusty deserts of La Guajira in the Northwestern region of Colombia and, like Embrace puts indigenous communities front and center.
Described by Guerra as a gangster film, the explosive premise centers on a Wayuu family that gets entangled in the booming business of selling marijuana to United States youth in the 1970s. But this is a gangster film like no other. Oh, you’ll get plenty of action-packed sequences involving runaway jeeps, burning buildings and bloody shootouts, but from its first trailer, it’s clear we’re getting a much more lyrical take on the genre. In fact, the trailer takes a while before introducing the drug trade aspect of the film at all. It focuses instead on the mythical meaning of one’s fingers (they’re tied to family) and showcases a young Wayuu woman’s striking manta clothing (think a looser, desert-appropriate muumuu) as she dances around in the wind: signs that this won’t be your run-of-the-mill Narcos or American Made take on the country’s recent drug past.
The metaphor-riddled imagery seen throughout (a bird’s legs in the night, a hand caressing a marijuana leaf) suggests a blending of Shakespearean high family drama and the kind of feverish take on history that we’ve seen in films like Zama. As intoxicating as Guerra’s previous film, Birds of Passage looks like a handsome addition to the ever-growing canon of films from Colombia that have helped establish it as one of the most exciting film industries in the continent. Take a look at the full trailer below.