Colombian cinema has never really garnered much attention across the globe. Save for 2004`s masterpiece, Maria Full of Grace, the country`s impact on global cinema has been sadly minimal. This year`s East End Film Festival, however, is host to a number of Colombian films, each hoping to finally put the country firmly on the cinematic map.
First-time director Josef Kubota Wladyka brings to life a tense and emotional tale of two desperate brothers in his new film Manos Sucias. Leaving behind their lives of soccer and street girls in the slums of Buenaventura, the brothers join a shady group under the pretence that they will help them someday become famous rappers, instead finding themselves embroiled in a dangerous world of crime and drug smuggling.
Years later, the brothers have grown apart and are living very different lives. The older, Jacobo (Jarlin Javier Martinez) is a struggling fisherman, whilst the younger, Delio (Christian James Abvincula) is happily married and trying his best to provide for his young family. Together, they embark on one final job for their boss, escorting a torpedo filled with millions of dollars worth of cocaine along the Colombian coast. Along the intense twenty-four hour voyage, the pair struggle with insane drug barons, militant local authorities, and guerilla warfare in their strife-stricken country.
The performances by the two leads (both in their debut feature) are absolutely outstanding; the relationship between the two is one of love and true fraternity, and Martinez`s variations between tenderness and utter exasperation are those every older brother can empathise with. Abvincula meanwhile plays the younger with such boyish charm and innocence that the harrowing scene in which he is forced to kill an innocent man with his bare hands is sure to bring many an audience member to tears.
Beautifully shot against the sultry South America landscape, Wladyka creates a stark juxtaposition of beauty and horror as the narrative unfolds in all its stifling glory. He has also managed to capture the amazingly vast contrast between the manmade poverty and corruption of Colombia`s slums and its glorious natural wonder. Coupled with Scott Thorough`s traditionally Colombian soundtrack, there is a joyousness behind our heroes` desperation, and a celebration for the people living in this tempestuous region.
In his first full-length feature, Wladyka has shown himself as a force to be reckoned with, and certainly one to watch out for in the future. A fledgling cast and a relatively green crew, Manos Sucias is a calling card for Colombian talent in years to come.
Dir: Josef Kubota Wladyka
Scr: Alan Blanco, Josef Kubota Wladyka
Starring: Christian James Abvincula, Jarlin Javier Martinez, Hadder Blandon, Andres Reina Ruiz
Prd: Elena Greenlee, Marcia Nunes
DOP: Alan Blanco
Music: Scott Thorough
Run time: 84mins
Manos Sucias is screening as part of the East End Film Festival on 9 July 2015.