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Thread of Return (Hilo de Retorno)

Director - Erwin Goggel - 2020

"Dirty gem"
A quiet and reticent teen returns to her tragic and painful roots, in Colombian film bursting with authenticity and a peculiar vintage feel - from the Tallinn Black Nights Film Festival


You’d be forgiven for thinking that this film was made 40 years ago. Not only the story seems to take place in the 1980s, but also the highly grainy and saturated images look like they were taken straight from a movie of the same decade. The cars, the clothes and the songs are reminiscent of a recent past that Colombia would rather forget, when extreme violence was the country’s main currency.

This is not a political movie. There is no reference to the Colombian government, to the drug trade, to the the cartels and to the Farcs, except for a quick mention of a non-specific armed struggle. This is not a thriller, either, despite the graphic violence. Instead, this is a psychological drama with abundant sentiment, colour and flare. It follows the shy Marina (Paola Baldión). She rarely utters a full sentence, instead communicating with her fearful pearly eyes. She lives with her brutal and vicious grandfather in the slums of Bogota. One day, a freak accident claims the life of her grandfather as well as their impoverished abode, in one of the film’s most impressive scenes.

Marina then meets up with her cousin Jairo, who is slightly older and far more extroverted. Despite their very different personalities, they trust each other and bond. The two young relatives embark on a journey to Marina’s birth village in order to retrieve some property deeds belonging to their late relative, and to claim their inheritance. At first, the journey is pleasant and smooth. They dance the local Fandango, drink and befriend the locals, unaware of the dangers that lie ahead. An old friend called Clemencia tries to warn Marina of the imminent perils, but it’s already too late.

What follows is a mixture of memories from the past (which explain Marina’s laconic attitude) and various unfortunate twists of fate. Two further scenes deserve a special mention (without going into their conjecture so I don’t spoil the movie for you): a bloodbath in the woods and vultures inside the hospital. The violence is so credible you can almost feel the blood splatter on your face. The young actors are overflowing with emotion. This violence is graphic yet never glamourised. This is a tasteful and authentic movie, which never slips into fetishism and exploitation. Credit must also go to the closing tune, when a sorrowful female warble offers closure to our equally tormented protagonist.

On the other hand, this is not a movie without imperfections. The script isn’t entirely auspicious, and some of the loose threads just don’t tie together. For example, I’m not entirely sure how a photo shoot sequence (with a beach painted in the background) fits into the narrative, and I was also a little confused about Clemencia’s role in the beginning of the movie. Don’t worry, this won’t ruin your viewing. At a taut 82 minutes, Thread of Return provides audiences with a memorable and gripping experience.

Thread of Return has just premiered at the 24th Tallinn Black Nights Film Festival, which is taking place right now.

"Dirty gem"

By Victor Fraga - 26-11-2020

By Victor Fraga - 26-11-2020

Victor Fraga is a Brazilian born and London-based writer with more than...

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