Click to Skip Ad
Closing in...
Issa Rae's HBO-Bound 'Awkward Black Girl'-esque Comedy Gets a Director Issa Rae's HBO-Bound 'Awkward Black Girl'-esque Comedy Gets a Director The Irresponsibility of 'What Happened, Miss Simone?' The Irresponsibility of 'What Happened, Miss Simone?' Zadie Smith Will Make Her Feature Screenwriting Debut, Teaming up w/ Claire Denis for Sci-Fi Project Zadie Smith Will Make Her Feature Screenwriting Debut, Teaming up w/ Claire Denis for Sci-Fi Project David Oyelowo, Gugu Mbatha-Raw, Abderrahmane Sissako, Effie Brown and More Invited to the Academy as Diversity Push Continues David Oyelowo, Gugu Mbatha-Raw, Abderrahmane Sissako, Effie Brown and More Invited to the Academy as Diversity Push Continues Review: Arriving on Netflix TODAY, Definitive Nina Simone Documentary, 'What Happened, Miss Simone' Review: Arriving on Netflix TODAY, Definitive Nina Simone Documentary, 'What Happened, Miss Simone' Haiti and the Dominican Republic - A Conflict Captured on Film Haiti and the Dominican Republic - A Conflict Captured on Film Fried Chicken & Drugs: 'Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt' Writer Charla Lauriston Creates the Anti-­Strong Black Woman in 'Clench & Release' Fried Chicken & Drugs: 'Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt' Writer Charla Lauriston Creates the Anti-­Strong Black Woman in 'Clench & Release' A Muscle-Bound Michael B. Jordan Hitting a Speed Bag w/ Stallone's Encouragement in Pic from 'Creed' A Muscle-Bound Michael B. Jordan Hitting a Speed Bag w/ Stallone's Encouragement in Pic from 'Creed' Greetings From 'The Walking Dead: Season 6' Set as Daryl Plants an Unexpected Kiss on Michonne Greetings From 'The Walking Dead: Season 6' Set as Daryl Plants an Unexpected Kiss on Michonne Taraji P. Henson Books Lead in 'Hunger Games' Producer's Directorial Debut, ‘The Best Of Enemies’ Taraji P. Henson Books Lead in 'Hunger Games' Producer's Directorial Debut, ‘The Best Of Enemies’ PBS Yanks Ben Affleck 'Finding Your Roots' Episode + Puts Off 3rd & 4th Seasons Until Editorial Standards Improve PBS Yanks Ben Affleck 'Finding Your Roots' Episode + Puts Off 3rd & 4th Seasons Until Editorial Standards Improve Casting News - Teyonah Parris Is Spike Lee's Lysistrata + NWA Biopic Casts its Tupac, Jussie Smollett Heads 'Underground' Casting News - Teyonah Parris Is Spike Lee's Lysistrata + NWA Biopic Casts its Tupac, Jussie Smollett Heads 'Underground' Here's Your First Look At Taye Diggs in the Title Role in 'Hedwig and the Angry Inch' Here's Your First Look At Taye Diggs in the Title Role in 'Hedwig and the Angry Inch' Teaser: Marques Houston, Keshia Knight Pulliam and Draya Michele Star in TV One Original Movie, 'Will to Love' Teaser: Marques Houston, Keshia Knight Pulliam and Draya Michele Star in TV One Original Movie, 'Will to Love' Starz Announces Return Date for Original Series 'Power' + New Key Art + Trailer Starz Announces Return Date for Original Series 'Power' + New Key Art + Trailer 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 'Supremacy' Director Deon Taylor Talks Race, Horror, and Working With Lela Rochon (LAFF Premiere) 'Supremacy' Director Deon Taylor Talks Race, Horror, and Working With Lela Rochon (LAFF Premiere) 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 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