Click to Skip Ad
Closing in...
Meet the Cast of 'Desperate Housewives - Africa' + the Characters from the American Original They Each Play (Premieres in 2 Weeks) Meet the Cast of 'Desperate Housewives - Africa' + the Characters from the American Original They Each Play (Premieres in 2 Weeks) Netflix's 'The Getdown' Directed by Baz Luhrman Has Found Its Female Lead Netflix's 'The Getdown' Directed by Baz Luhrman Has Found Its Female Lead Meet the 3 Leads for the Next 'Star Wars' Movie (John Boyega Is One of Them) + Watch New Teaser Meet the 3 Leads for the Next 'Star Wars' Movie (John Boyega Is One of Them) + Watch New Teaser Quentin Tarantino's 'H8ful Eight' Gets a Teaser Trailer (Samuel L. Jackson, Belinda Owino) Quentin Tarantino's 'H8ful Eight' Gets a Teaser Trailer (Samuel L. Jackson, Belinda Owino) Here Are the Cities & Theaters in Which Patrik-Ian Polk's Award-Winning Drama 'Blackbird' Will Open Here Are the Cities & Theaters in Which Patrik-Ian Polk's Award-Winning Drama 'Blackbird' Will Open Trailer: Pilot Project 'First Gen' (The Trials and Tribulations of Being a First Gen Nigerian-American) Trailer: Pilot Project 'First Gen' (The Trials and Tribulations of Being a First Gen Nigerian-American) TV One Shores Up 2015-2016 Slate with 8 New Series, 16 Original Movies + New Production Partnerships TV One Shores Up 2015-2016 Slate with 8 New Series, 16 Original Movies + New Production Partnerships 'Walking Dead' Creator Says Rick and Morgan's Reunion Will Be "The Spine" of Season 6 'Walking Dead' Creator Says Rick and Morgan's Reunion Will Be "The Spine" of Season 6 Abderrahmane Sissako's 'Timbuktu' Quietly Grosses Over $1 Million in USA Box Office - Rare for an African Film Abderrahmane Sissako's 'Timbuktu' Quietly Grosses Over $1 Million in USA Box Office - Rare for an African Film Rumorville: Ernie Hudson Circling T'Chaka Role in Marvel's 'Black Panther' Movie Rumorville: Ernie Hudson Circling T'Chaka Role in Marvel's 'Black Panther' Movie Watch Cuba Gooding Jr. Wield a Gun and Snort Coke in his Underwear in Clip from 'Big Time in Hollywood, FL' Watch Cuba Gooding Jr. Wield a Gun and Snort Coke in his Underwear in Clip from 'Big Time in Hollywood, FL' People in Chicago Are Not Happy with Spike Lee’s 'Chiraq' People in Chicago Are Not Happy with Spike Lee’s 'Chiraq' Check Out the First Trailer for HBO's New Dramedy Series 'Ballers' Starring Dwayne Johnson Check Out the First Trailer for HBO's New Dramedy Series 'Ballers' Starring Dwayne Johnson 'Tales of the Grim Sleeper,' on Serial Killer Who Murdered Black Women for 25 Years, Debuts April 27 on HBO 'Tales of the Grim Sleeper,' on Serial Killer Who Murdered Black Women for 25 Years, Debuts April 27 on HBO Apparently, Many of You Aren't Pleased With the "All-New" 'Single Ladies'... What's Going on? Apparently, Many of You Aren't Pleased With the "All-New" 'Single Ladies'... What's Going on? What to Expect in Season 2 of 'Empire' (Less Opulence; Spike Lee May Direct, Oprah May Guest-Star, More) What to Expect in Season 2 of 'Empire' (Less Opulence; Spike Lee May Direct, Oprah May Guest-Star, More) Why Was Janet Hubert (Aunt Viv) Really Replaced on 'Fresh Prince of Bel-Air'? Buzzfeed Investigates Why Was Janet Hubert (Aunt Viv) Really Replaced on 'Fresh Prince of Bel-Air'? Buzzfeed Investigates Aaron McGruder Finally Explains Why He Left 'The Boondocks' Aaron McGruder Finally Explains Why He Left 'The Boondocks' Netflix Explains Why It Doesn't Always Have That Film Or TV Show You Really Want To See (Video) Netflix Explains Why It Doesn't Always Have That Film Or TV Show You Really Want To See (Video) Tichina Arnold Says She Talked To Martin Lawrence About Doing A 'Martin' Movie... Tichina Arnold Says She Talked To Martin Lawrence About Doing A 'Martin' Movie...

PAFF 2013 Review: 'La Playa D.C.': An Afro-Colombian Coming of Age Story

Shadow and Act By Nijla Mumin | Shadow and Act February 11, 2013 at 6:57AM

There's an interesting scene in Juan Andres Arongo's La Playa D.C., where main character Tomas and his older brother El Chaco walk through a ritzy mall, and are accosted by security guards who question their presence. After being thrown out of the mall, El Chaco angrily exclaims that he left Colombia because of incidents like that.
1
La Playa DC

There's an interesting scene in Juan Andres Arango's La Playa D.C., where main character Tomas and his older brother El Chaco walk through a ritzy mall, and are accosted by security guards who question their presence. After being thrown out of the mall, El Chaco angrily exclaims that he left Colombia because of incidents like that. Colombia has the third largest black/African population in the western hemisphere, behind North America and Brazil. Like these countries, there's been systematic attempts at erasing the presence of these people and their cultures. 

A teenage Tomas, played by Luis Carlos Guevara, defies his mother and stepfather's wishes to become a security guard, and instead embarks on an artistic journey in cutting hair. The barber trade documented in this film is one of the stronger threads, showing how culture is preserved through one's clippers. Haircut designs that American audiences would associate with the early hip hop days, are shown here to carry a special brand of appeal and masculinity. That special brand of appeal carries over into a scene in a blue-tinted club where black Colombians grind with each other to their own hip hop music. It is rather beautiful to see this diasporic variation on a common theme.

As Tomas attempts street-survival and tries to locate his younger drug-addicted brother Jairo, he reunites with El Chaco who just returned from "The North," walking with a swagger that when shot from the back, adds a nice layer of personality to the story. When the camera is positioned behind him and more importantly behind Tomas, we navigate a heavily divided terrain in a way that reverses a dominant perspective for one that we rarely, if ever, occupy. 

This perspective makes the film's content important and nuanced, but also frustrating at times. Guevara, with a perfectly angled face and keen features doesn't always register emotional beats, leaving some key moments without the intended impact. The realist aesthetic complements the performative style, but doesn't always do the job.

There's also a fascinating way that water operates during interludes where Tomas, Jairo, and his mother sit alongside a rushing river as she braids a "map" in his brother's hair, telling the story of how slaves would use braiding to "find their way back." In the same way that Tomas' learns to use haircutting to preserve, his mother's braiding signals a sort of return to a time past, an origin that cannot be returned to even as it is continually referenced and dreamt about by the characters. Their forced migration as the result of the civil war, into the dense space of Bogota has in a way disrupted that origin, that culture, causing Tomas and the people around him to preserve life by escaping, assimilating, or cutting hair.

La Playa D.C., named for the beach in Colombia's capital district, lets us into a world we are not often given access to in cinema. Though it isn't perfect, this story signals something we need more of, portraying people who have existed and survived in a country where their stories, like the Afro-Colombian soundtrack, ring loud and distinct. 

This article is related to: Reviews


Shadow & ActNewsletter