Los Viajes del Viento (The Wind Journeys) (2009)
Rather than get your fix of Colombian culture from Hollywood spectacles like Colombiana, look no further than The Wind Journeys for an authentic and contemporary cinematic depiction of a nation. No, it doesn’t show the increasingly modernized cityscapes of Bogotá or Medellin, but it does reach back to the diverse heritage and tradition of the developing country. The film hosts a great static cinematography of the pantheon of panoramic Colombian vistas – mountains, plains, rivers, desert – all accompanied by a furious wind that blows through the country, carrying tradition with it.
The Wind Journeys takes the viewer on a sonic journey of traditional Colombian music – from the country-folk stylings of Merengue and Vallenato to more indigenous wind and percussion-based sounds of the Wayuú and other Highland peoples. The lonesome journey of a once-famed travelling accordionist begins with a death, that of elderly protagonist’s wife, and also climaxed with the loss of another, his Master Guerra. However, the ways of his cursed accordion refused to die. A playboy in his prime, the elderly protagonist, Ignacio, has countless bastard children throughout the land, posing the question whether his young companion, Fermin, is one of them. Yes or no, Ignacio refuses to teach Fermin how to play any instruments, refuses to pass on his way of life that has left him to endure pain and strife. He blames this strife on the cursed accordion he wields, but his struggles are that of all mankind, his ‘Devil’s Accordian’ merely a scapegoat.
The boy’s rite of passage and the man’s rite of death evoke Homer’s Odyssey and Achebe’s Things Fall Apart – parallel epics unfold across primordial lands, the dual wayfarers encountering mythic trials for their feats to overcome. Of all the legendary feats, though, I didn’t care for the accordion-off. I know that ‘realistic’ isn’t what director, Guerra, was aiming for in this mythic tale, but this drawn out scene came off as juvenile. Perhaps in the mother tongue it was more appropriate, but I feel subtlety and sophistication were lost in translation.
After Fermin’s baptism, Ignacio’s fears were substantiated. Even without trying to teach the younger generation, some things are still imparted, as if by way of the very breeze we share. By the end, he decides that since sheltering the past to protect the present is futile, you might as well impart the things that you know and love to neutralize the inescapable woes of the world. The final scene leaves us with a Lost in Translation moment, with a message being transmitted, the content of which remaining unbeknownst to the audience forever. I will not bother to guess here. It seems to me, though, that the words have no weight, the very act itself is enough to be of consequence.
Do yourself a favor and put it on your queue instead of Colombiana.