Top Ten Movies of 2019 — Number Eight

birds of passage

With a level of specificity that should be the aspiration of all filmmakers, directors Ciro Guerra and Cristina Gallego tells the long, complicated story of a crime family in Birds of Passage. Beginning in the late-nineteen-sixties and spanning a generation, the film traces a familiar trajectory in some ways. The film’s characters start of their rutted pathway modestly, trafficking drugs because its the only way available to build earnings quickly. Their business expands until it’s a small empire, which inevitably prompts turf skirmishes and mounting mayhem. Set in northern Colombia, the film draws much of its considerable power through considering the almost archetypal rise-and-fall drama in the long cultural context of the indigenous population. It is this group, the Wayuu, enacting the slow-rolling tragedy, freshening the well-worn crime film trope of stubborn honor driving conflicts. What might feel obligatory or mechanical in another saga of a crime family spiraling out of control is fully enlivened by the heavy weight of inherited perspective. As meticulously crafted by the filmmakers, the plot of Birds of Passage couldn’t progress in any other way. It springs from the very beings of the people on screen. Deep empathy is usually cited as a key characteristics of a film that offers an understanding of innocent individuals beset by woes outside of their control. Birds of Passage shows that empathy is as integral to telling the shared story of characters who make villainous and obviously self-destructive choices. Try and we might to buck against it, history shapes the future.