ReelWorld: La Playa D.C. – Juan Andres Arango


Tomas (Luis Carlos Guevara) and his troubled younger brother, Jairo (Andres Murillo), live with their mother (along with her current partner and their baby) in the sprawling city of Bogota, Colombia. Despite losing their father in the small but violent, drug and war-torn village of Buenaventura on the country’s Pacific coast, neither boy has any love for the large city that their mother has relocated them to. Jairo disappears to the city streets more and more, for longer and longer, selling whatever drugs he doesn’t smoke himself in his effort to deny his current reality and return to happier times. When Jairo gets kicked out of his mother’s house, Tomas leaves with him, only to find out that Jairo owes his dealers more money that either boy can hope to pay, and says goodbye to his brother before he disappears yet again.

Tomas reconnects with El Chaco (James Solis), who helps him find a place to stay and starts taking Tomas to work with him, so that they can both save money together. Chaco is burning to get out and away from the city. He wants to go North, and he wants Tomas to go with him. Not wanting to abandon his brother, however, Tomas insists that they search for Jairo before going anywhere. Thus begins our journey through the streets of Bogota, and ever more into the internal world of Tomas. We see the city and the people through his eyes as we follow him on his quest to locate and save his brother. What he discovers along the way, however, may just be the key to saving himself.

The camerawork in this film is one of the first amazing characteristics I noticed. Shot between tight closeups and sweeping land/cityscapes, we get to know the characters and the locations all through Tomas. Often times we aren’t even given much of a glimpse at what he sees, but everything we need to know is instead reflected on his face – in his eyes and expression. There is more not spoken in this film than there is expressed through dialogue, and that is part of what gives this film so much emotional power. Guevara is an incredible young actor, and he carries Tomas’ burdens – and the film itself – squarely on his more than capable shoulders.

Another thing that caught and held my attention from early on was the amazing soundtrack! The tone of the film changes in unison with the beats, and the variety of musical types evident in this movie take the viewer on a meandering journey that is completely in synch with what we see happening on the screen. The moments where there are no musical notes to be heard are some of the most powerful of all, and everything is tied together by Tomas’ dreams/pseudo-flashbacks to a time when he still lived on the coast with his mother, and when Jairo was still an innocent toddler. As Tomas, Guevara is just beautiful to watch, and it’s through his connections with the other characters – and with himself – that make this entire journey all the more worth taking.

La Playa D.C. is screening as part of the ReelWorld Film Festival tonight, April 1, 2013 at 7pm (Canada Square). Tickets are on sale now!

Also, you can check out the film’s official site here.


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