Sometimes the smallest concepts have the greatest impact.
Colombian film The Wind Journeys is the story of Ignacio (Marciano Martínez), an old troubadour who is renowned across Colombia for his skills with an accordion. At the start of the picture, Ignacio is setting out on a journey. He has a black accordion decorated with bull horns strapped to his back, and he intends to go and return it to its owner, the music master Guerra. A young man named Fermin (Yull Núñez) chases after him and asks Ignacio to teach him to play. Ignacio refuses, but Fermin follows anyway.
Ignacio swears he has given up playing music, and he turns down some offers of money and food for doing so; eventually, however, necessity demands he join some contests where the prize is, well, money. The first is a duel between accordion players, and it's surprisingly similar to a freestyle rap battle, with the musicians shouting rhyming insults back and forth until one of them trips on his words. As we will discover on this journey, there is a whole social structure to the world of musicians, and each instrument has its own folklore. We will hear about people killing a special bird to get drumming skills, magical talismans, and even witness a blood sacrifice. Ignacio is known in the scene, loved by some and hated by others, but always preceded by his reputation. Fermin once refers to the horned instrument he carries as "the devil's accordion," and indeed, it does seem to cast a spell on Ignacio whenever he plays it.
The Wind Journeys was written and directed by Ciro Guerra. It is his second feature film, though it shows such a firm grasp of cinematic language, you'd think he'd done much more. His is a movie that is as much about silence and contemplation as it is about music and communing with melody. The long stretches of nothing give our ears time to clean out, making the bursts of song all the more striking. Guerra evokes an old-fashioned, almost mystical world in The Wind Journeys. It's like "The Devil Went Down to Georgia" with accordions instead of guitars, or a roaming samurai movie where a blast of music is more powerful than any sword. The Wind Journeys certainly looks like it's from another land. Guerra is clearly proud of the beauty of his country, favoring wide shots when the men are traveling so we can see the Point A they are leaving and the Point B they are heading to.
There are twists along the road for Ignacio and Fermin that keep The Wind Journeys from growing boring, and the actors exhibit a profound naturalism that makes some of the more spiritual turns believable. There's a little violence, and even one scene of intense romantic love that burns with passion even though neither of the parties ever touch one another. The script builds toward an appropriately emotional climax, but one that isn't obvious. It feels right when you get there, even if you don't see it coming.
The Wind Journeys definitely falls into the "isn't for everyone" category. The movie requires patience on the part of the viewer. Sit and watch and let it come to you, though, and see if you don't find yourself carried off on its gentle breeze.
Film Movement's widescreen transfer of The Wind Journeys looks excellent. Paulo Andrés Pérez's beautiful photography really comes alive, with vibrant colors and sharp detail. Some nighttime skies can look a little inky, but it's not a consistent problem.
The Spanish soundtrack is mixed in 2.0 with very good English subtitles. The music sounds clear and rings through the speakers loudly, which is important in a film like this. The dialogue largely drives the picture, but there is also decent ambient sound in the (very) quiet scenes.
Bonus features for the main movie include a theatrical trailer and a text piece on the director and one on the music in the movie. I assume as per usual there will be liner notes in the packaging, but I did not receive the case with my disc, so I am not sure.
As with all Film Movement DVDs, the main film is joined with a short feature, as well. This time, it is the 20-minute Peruvian short Danzak. Directed by Gabriela Yepes, and based on a short story by José María Arguedas, the movie thematically connects with The Wind Journeys in that both are about a music-based art and fulfilling the last wish of a father figure.
In this case, it's the story of a young girl whose father is a "scissor dancer," a spectacularly costumed folk dancer who performs with two metal blades that look like shears. He wants his daughter to carry on the family tradition, to embrace dance, and he sparks her imagination by telling her a story of a mythical figure who is every dance and all dancing, who she can join and be a part of. It's a tender little story, with the right dollop of sentiment to make it genuinely moving.
Highly Recommended. Another excellent release from Film Movement once again couples thematically relevant movies together. The feature-length The Wind Journeys is the lead offering, and the Colombian road picture takes us on a journey through a semi-mystical musical culture that manages to balance the human with the mythic. Equally good is the Peruvian short film Danzak, about a young girl embracing her family's dance heritage. Don't miss either.
Jamie S. Rich is a novelist and comic book writer. He is best known for his collaborations with Joëlle Jones, including the hardboiled crime comic book You Have Killed Me, the challenging romance 12 Reasons Why I Love Her, and the 2007 prose novel Have You Seen the Horizon Lately?, for which Jones did the cover. All three were published by Oni Press. His most recent project is the comedy series Spell Checkers, again with Jones and artist Nicolas Hitori de. Follow Rich's blog at Confessions123.com.