Click to Skip Ad
Closing in...
Say Hello to the Cast of the All-New, All-Female 'Ghostsbusters' movie Say Hello to the Cast of the All-New, All-Female 'Ghostsbusters' movie Review: Nuance-Deprived "Race" Movie 'Black or White' is Actually About White Frustration (Opens Friday) Review: Nuance-Deprived "Race" Movie 'Black or White' is Actually About White Frustration (Opens Friday) Trailer: Musical Take on the Gospel According to John the Apostle w/ a Black Cast (Harry Lennix, Chaka Khan, Mali Music, More) Trailer: Musical Take on the Gospel According to John the Apostle w/ a Black Cast (Harry Lennix, Chaka Khan, Mali Music, More) ABC Picks Up New Pilot From Shonda Rhimes' Shondaland Titled 'The Catch' ABC Picks Up New Pilot From Shonda Rhimes' Shondaland Titled 'The Catch' First 'Fantastic Four' Reboot Trailer Surfaces! Watch It Now! First 'Fantastic Four' Reboot Trailer Surfaces! Watch It Now! Ava DuVernay & David Oyelowo Make It a Trifecta as They Re-Team for Katrina-Set Love Story/Murder Mystery Ava DuVernay & David Oyelowo Make It a Trifecta as They Re-Team for Katrina-Set Love Story/Murder Mystery Review: Lifetime's 'With This Ring' - So What Did You Think of It? Review: Lifetime's 'With This Ring' - So What Did You Think of It? Review: Nzingha Stewart Guides Lifetime's 'With This Ring' (Premieres Saturday, January 24th) Review: Nzingha Stewart Guides Lifetime's 'With This Ring' (Premieres Saturday, January 24th) Here Are 10 Reasons Why Many of You Aren't Going to Movie Theaters Anymore, According to a New Study Here Are 10 Reasons Why Many of You Aren't Going to Movie Theaters Anymore, According to a New Study 'Empire' Breaks Fox TV’s 22 Year Old Ratings Record 'Empire' Breaks Fox TV’s 22 Year Old Ratings Record Alexandra Shipp Has been Cast as Storm in 'X-Men: Apocalypse' Alexandra Shipp Has been Cast as Storm in 'X-Men: Apocalypse' Open Casting Call - 2 Male Leads in New Feature Film From the Producers of 'Pariah' & 'Yelling to the Sky' Open Casting Call - 2 Male Leads in New Feature Film From the Producers of 'Pariah' & 'Yelling to the Sky' "Stakes Is High" in First Trailer for Season 2 of STARZ Hit Drama Series 'Power' (Returns This Summer) "Stakes Is High" in First Trailer for Season 2 of STARZ Hit Drama Series 'Power' (Returns This Summer) An Open Letter to My Sister, Ava DuVernay An Open Letter to My Sister, Ava DuVernay Watch Teaser for 'Being Mary Jane' Season 2 + Details on Story, Guest Stars Watch Teaser for 'Being Mary Jane' Season 2 + Details on Story, Guest Stars Aaron McGruder Finally Explains Why He Left 'The Boondocks' Aaron McGruder Finally Explains Why He Left 'The Boondocks' Macy Gray, Bryshere Y. Gray (aka Yazz The Greatest) Will Have An Affair In Lee Daniels' 'Empire' Macy Gray, Bryshere Y. Gray (aka Yazz The Greatest) Will Have An Affair In Lee Daniels' 'Empire' It's A 'Hustle & Flow' Reunion! Taraji P. Henson Joins Terrence Howard In Lee Daniels' 'Empire' It's A 'Hustle & Flow' Reunion! Taraji P. Henson Joins Terrence Howard In Lee Daniels' 'Empire' 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 2014 Review: 'La Playa D.C.': An Afro-Colombian Coming of Age Story

Shadow and Act By Nijla Mumin | Shadow and Act February 10, 2014 at 11:16AM

PAFF 2014 Review: 'La Playa D.C.': An Afro-Colombian Coming of Age Story
0
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. 

The film was acquired for distribution by ArtMattan in December, and continues to screen around the country. It next screens at the Pan African Film Festival (PAFF), which kicked off last week, running February 6-172014.

This article is related to: Juan Andres Arango


Shadow & ActNewsletter