Past Meetup

Crime beckons to an indigenous family: Gallego and Guerra's BIRDS OF PASSAGE

This Meetup is past

7 people went

Landmark's Kendall Square Cinema

355 Binney St · Cambridge, MA

How to find us

Meet at the lobby staircase at 3:45p (look for the grey cowboy hat); we'll seat ourselves at 4:00p. After, gather near the ticket-taker to head out for food and talk. NOTE: I'LL HAVE NO ACCESS TO MEETUP'S APP ON FRIDAY PM. Call or text 617-834-5701.

Location image of event venue


Running time 2hr 5min

This drama, based on the true story of a drug war that engulfed the indigenous Wayuu people of northern Colombia in the nineteen-sixties and seventies, is an ethnographic thriller. A poor young man named Rapayet (José Acosta), a low-level coffee dealer, wants to marry a young woman named Zaida (Natalia Reyes), from the respected Pushaina clan; unable to afford the hefty dowry set by her formidable mother (Carmiña Martínez), he begins selling marijuana to American Peace Corps workers. After the wedding, Rapayet’s business expands and his family prospers, but the inevitable violence does more than threaten their well-being: it endangers the intricate, delicate fabric of tradition that defines the Wayuu way of life. Ignoring ancient omens, Rapayet and his family get caught up in a conflict where honor is the highest currency and debts are paid with blood. A sprawling epic about the erosion of tradition in pursuit of material wealth, "Birds of Passage" is a visually striking exploration of loyalty, greed, and the voracious nature of change. The directors, Cristina Gallego and Ciro Guerra, examine those traditions with ardent attention; their poised, richly textured images both unfold the action in tense detail and enmesh it in its social context, rescuing cultural memory from tragic devastation. In Wayuu and Spanish. ∞ Richard Brody, The New Yorker; Rotten Tomatoes


Rotten Tomatoes Tomatometer: 93% of 84 reviews

"Birds" was selected as the Colombian entry for Best Foreign Language Film at the 91st Academy Awards, making the December shortlist.

Read Landmark Theatres' filmmakers letter:

... [T]he burgeoning Colombian drug trade of the 1970s ... is hardly untilled dramatic territory ... but perspective is everything: In favoring an indigenous perspective, grounding its crime-thriller tropes in the rich soil of native tradition, the movie achieves a lyrical power and moral clarity all its own .... Like many a mob movie before it, “Birds of Passage” is predicated on the tension between family and business. But more than that, it’s a fascinatingly layered study in dueling tribal codes, the ways in which the rules of organized crime clash and intersect with Wayuu rituals and beliefs. ∞ Justin Chang, Los Angeles Times

This unassuming empathy — the refusal of the filmmakers to stamp their subjects with otherness — makes the losses the characters endure all the more devastating. The ease and charisma of the performers, trained and nonprofessional actors alike, heighten the emotional impact. ∞ A.O. Scott, New York TImes

Harrowing in its repetitive violence, but never less than fascinating as a piece of ethnology, with magic-realist dimensions, that amounts to an origin story of the Latin American drug trade. It's an extraordinarily accomplished piece of filmmaking. ∞ Joe Morgenstern, Wall Street Journal

Before Gallego and Guerra bring on the ganja business plans and dreams of going global, they spend time immersing viewers in the Wayuu’s world — the colorful, spellbinding Yonna dance is only the tip of the iceberg. Tradition, along with an inherent mistrust of alijunas (rough translation: outsiders), is what has kept them alive; god forbid you cross Zaida’s mother Ursula (Carmiña Martínez), the head matriarch in charge and keeper of ancient flames ... Even without explanations on the art of dream-talking or why certain necklaces are considered sacred, the film takes great pains to immerse you in this way of life, the importance of family, the significance of their communal gatherings, centuries-old customs and superstitions. All the better, naturally, for showing us how easy it is for all of it to slip away one dope-business double-cross at a time. ∞ David Fear, Rolling Stone