“A Twist On The Gangster Genre” – Cristina Gallego and Ciro Guerra on BIRDS OF PASSAGE

Watch the video interview on Youtube here

In select theaters this Friday February 15th, 2019

Film Courage: Your film BIRDS OF PASSAGE [Pájaros de verano] is about Colombian drug trafficking. Why is it so personal to the two of you?

Cristina Gallego, Co-Director: It’s a personal story. I think even when you’re in a context during a period film, but you are doing a film that is also set in a community which doesn’t belong to you. At the same time it speaks about us.

This is a family film and we struggle with the conflicts of the traditional (a community) and the modernity that also talks about conflict between woman and man and the real and the spiritual world. This is something that touches us in a very deep way.

Film Courage: Ciro I think you said in the press notes that you wanted to make a movie that was not turning criminals into heroes, showing the horrors of untamed capitalism. So I know this is a very popular theme but the way the two of you have shown this film exhibits the families and more of the emotional need behind it (for honor, respect). Can you talk about that and why you didn’t want to turn it into more of one of the popular shows that is on currently?

Image courtesy of The Orchard – Copyright 2019

Ciro Guerra, Co-Director: Yes, we wanted to make a genre film but this story gave us the opportunity to give it a twist to the genre film, like the gangster film or the noir film that usually has turned into a glorification of criminals, a celebration of violence, we wanted to talk about this process, what the birth of has meant in Colombia which is a process of a destruction of our cultural roots, a process of destruction of the basis of society, a process of destruction of a family that was very close-knit. And in that process you cannot glorify the violence that takes place. The fact that this story happened within a society that is matrilineal in which the women are so strong allowed us to give a twist to the genre and make it from more of a female perspective with a female director and strong female characters and also we decided to every element that is usually a celebration of violence like the action sequences or the excitement sequences that we were going to keep most of the violence off-screen. And when we kept it on-screen there was not going to be any way of cutting it to make it more exciting or more action driven but it was going to be more about watching the way that violence and destruction happens in front of you with a distance.

Image courtesy of The Orchard – Copyright 2019

Film Courage: And I understand Cristina this is your directorial debut (I know you produced many other films). Is there a story you can pass along where something happened on set which didn’t go as planned and had you thinking on your feet? As a first-time director, how was this?

Cristina: I think for me as a first-time director everything was new and that is how I like to work, being challenged all the time, getting out from a place of comfort. This film has many things and difficulties not just for me as a first-time director but for us and for our crew. It was the most challenging shooting that we have until now.

And it was just challenging me all the time to get the concentration to be alive until the end of the shooting because it was very hard for us.

Film Courage: Lastly, I think you’ve talked about you think faces can tell stories? Since I’m not sure if you spoke some of the actual native language in the film [Wayuu people with Arawakan language] can you talk about how you convey that to your actors because the facial expressions were very real? The dialogue didn’t need to be there. You could understand what they meant [without saying a word]. How did you convey this to your actors and the viewers?

Image courtesy of The Orchard – Copyright 2019

Ciro: For us authenticity is the most important part in the process of casting and in the process of acting. And in this film we have a mix of professional actors with non-professional actors. And the non-professional actors are from this region and are people who have experience (a life experience) which you can see and feel. They were sharing life experience and also the culture, language and every aspect of the Wayuu to the professional actors who we were working with them and some of them which were not Wayuu. And also the professional actors were teaching them the craft of cinema, how to stand on scene, how to make the dialogue real and in this where they are both learning from each other is a growing process for both of them and a growing process for the film. The result is something that is very transporting and authentic in what we mean when we say that a face has almost like a location, like the main location of a film where the emotion happens and where the audience’s connection happens.

Cristina: Yes, I think that as we are different in skin and as people, each one is talking not only his own but also about his roots and that is something that is in the skin and faces of the films. As Ciro says we are looking for authenticity not only in the faces but in the language, in the traditions and in all of the world that we are creating and this is part of what we are looking for. 

From the Oscar®-nominated team behind the genre-defying Embrace of the Serpent, comes an equally audacious saga centered on the Wayúu indigenous people during a crucial period in recent Colombian history. Torn between his desire to become a powerful man and his duty to uphold his culture’s values, Rapayet (José Acosta) enters the drug trafficking business in the 1970s and finds quick success despite his tribe’s matriarch Ursula’s (Carmiña Martínez) disapproval. 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.

In select theaters this Friday February 15th, 2019




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