Birds of Passage

Institute History

  • 2019 Sundance Film Festival


Sharing directing duties for the first time, longtime collaborators Cristina Gallego and Ciro Guerra (Embrace of the Serpent) returned to the Cannes Film Festival Directors’ Fortnight this year with their epic mafia saga, Birds of Passage.

In the late 1960s, on the arid lands of the indigenous Wayúu people, a ceremony introduces potential suitors to Zaida, the daughter of Wayúu matriarch Ursula. By winning Zaida’s hand, the ambitious young Raphayet becomes a part of Ursula’s powerful family. When he and his business partner, reckless outsider Moises, stumble upon Peace Corps volunteers looking for marijuana, they start a lucrative drug-trafficking trade that absorbs and threatens to destroy the family.

Just as Embrace of the Serpent defied categorization, Birds of Passage is as audacious, original, and artful a mafia film as you’ll see, one that laments the corrosive power of capitalism and the loss of a more spiritual connection to nature. With its astonishing visual style, striking colors, and vivid sense of place, it’s as if The Godfather were transplanted to a matriarchal tribe in Colombia—with Ursula as the indelible mob boss.

— J.N.

Screening Details

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