5 Heart-Pounding Moments from the Spike Lee-Produced Colombian Film ‘Manos Sucias’

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Colombia’s recent penchant for broiling social drama has been enhanced by the release of Manos Sucias, a tale of two Afro-Latino brothers from Buenaventura charged with transporting a drug-filled torpedo casing to a specified location along the coast. Following on from films such as Tierra en la lengua (Dust on the Tongue) and Los hongos, Josef Kubota Wladyka’s tense and reflective account of life in the Pacific coastal zones, where marginalized communities struggle for survival amid a sweltering climate of conflict, racism and poverty, is built on the superb performances of Cristian James Abvincula, as the brash but naïve Delio, and Jarlin Javier Martínez as the elder Jacobo, whose life has been tragically affected by the violence that plagues the region.

The brothers’ mission unfolds at sea, beneath overcast tropical skies, with much of the action confined to Jacabo’s ramshackle skiff before moving inland as the brothers’ desperation brings them into collision with other victims of circumstance. In spite of the natural beauty, finely captured in Alan Blanco’s cinematography, this is a region reeling from the constant presence of drug traffickers, paramilitaries and guerrillas, all seeking to gain the foothold which will confirm their dominance over the inhabitants of the area. As well as the palpable fear, Wladyka crafts a heightened sense of loss – that already occurred and that which lies ahead – in the wiser and more serious Jacobo, whose irritation with his younger brother’s impetuousness is offset by a strong protective duty and affection.

Manos Sucias has picked up plenty of notable and well-merited buzz, with mainstream interest likely to be piqued by Spike Lee being credited as an executive producer. The premise of young black men as the pawns of social inequality is certainly a concept that resonates in Lee’s best work. Here are five moments that will make your heart go ba-bum, ba-bum, ba-bum.

Manos Sucias opens on April 10, 2015 at the Laemmle Music Hall 3 in Los Angeles.


When Dancing El Choque

‘El Choque’ is a dance that involves repeatedly thrusting your lower regions against those of a partner. While not everyone is an enthusiast, it’s amazing what an invite from an attractive girl can do…

Suddenly, he’s all smiles.


When Getting Job Advice

“It’s the easiest job you’ve ever had,” a narco tells Delio. “Like a paid vacation,” says the other. There’s likely to be a catch somewhere.


When a Dire Warning Comes Your Way

Paddling his small boat into a dark mangrove, Jacobo is advised to, “Watch out for the witches.” His face suggests he would rather the woman had kept that to herself.


When You Can't Run Anymore

The brothers are on the run from the bad guys, and as they creep along disused rail tracks, something approaches… dun dun dun.


When Reality Sets In

The extent of their predicament becomes clear. Jacobo reinforces things to his younger sibling. This can’t end well.