Birds of Passage (fully subtitled — Pajaros de Verano) is a fictionalized version of actual happenings in the Guajira region of (northern) Columbia (related in a handful of chapters) over a dozen years from the late 1960s to the early 1980s (pre-Pablo Escobar). How it works from rigid cultural and spiritual tenets of a Wayuu clan caught in the rise of the cutthroat drug (cartel) business has an assiduous artistry about it, quite convincing and distinctive throughout (probably many viewers will be reminded of indelible sagas from silver and small screens like The Godfather and The Sopranos).
The filmmaking has a clear-minded stance when it comes to the level-headed driven similarly like fireballs and psychopaths that influence them onto paths of major windfalls and also calamity. A visceral charge is evident even if much of the worst happenings occur off-screen. As the ‘honor among thieves’ unravels is hard not to be drawn into the milieu of a clan featuring the central couple, Jose Acosta’s Rapayet and Natalia Reyes’ Zaiala. Especially from an early dance sequence which in a way provides a titular, noteworthy flight. Carmina Martinez as the stern matriarch who bears witness to a way of life fading away, Zaiala’s mother Ursula, is an intriguing frosty, piercing presence.
This picaresque, haunting Passage has a way of informing the reality of lives hanging in the balance with a vivid dexterity as Gallego and Guerra broaden the scope in a rather taut narrative frame. A raw potency is delivered in what regretfully didn’t make the final cut for this year’s Best Foreign-Language film. The past that is irrevocably changed by a vicious breed of capitalism is gloriously rendered especially in vivid widescreen compositions that capture the dusty, arid environs.