For an introduction to the concept of Thankful for World Cinema please go here.
La Playa DC (2012)
Here is another film, this one also in this year’s crop of Oscar submitted films, that deals with some compelling cultural dynamics and sociopolitical intrigue. La Playa DC concerns three brothers, mainly Tomas (the middle child). He is an Afro-Colombian teenage whose family has fled their pacific coast home, a war-torn part of the nation.
Due to the bloody history the American institution of slavery, the Civil Rights Movement, and American myopia in general; it can take a moment to allow the fact that racism is an issue in other countries as well, much as immigration is oft debated in many parts of the world. The distinction of the racism faced in this film, which is reflecting Colombian society is that it’s an insidiously quiet one, and not one that’s overt or vocally discouraged. There may not be much frankness in these regards here but it is discussed.
This scarcely touching upon the issue in an open way is one of the film’s better aspects. There are reactions and attitudes that are indicators. One notable instance is the utterance of the phrase “you people” and another would be when Chaco, Tomas’ older brother, in reaction to what just happens says it’s that kind of thing he wanted to move away from.
Chaco has recently returned home after being deported. However, he knows how and where he messed up and hopes to give it another go. This acts as the MacGuffin in story, the goal: heading to North America. The other concern is for their youngest brother who is already drug-addicted and living on the streets. A lot of the action concerns him: finding and/or protecting, but its Tomas we really focus on.
He’s the one who faces the change. Though he does arc well, and is portrayed in an aptly engaging way there are some things that hold this film back despite the fact that we get a full and sensical personal journey of self-discovery. While the film goes to great lengths to have a documentarian aesthetic it also doesn’t try to look too interesting. Too often there are overly-long reverse steadicam shots which give us too long of a view of the back of a head. This is also an editing concern.
While there is some creativity to how certain situations resolve themselves usually those decisions are represented in ways completely lacking drama or any sliver of suspense. This is too low-key a concept to softly deliver some of its few shocking blows. That and the long seeming stretches between these incidents make it a disengaging watch despite all the interesting and relevant things its conveying through its narrative.