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.
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.