Blood and Rain
by Martyn Conterio
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Jorge Navas’ Blood and Rain is a deceptive affair. What first appears to be a fatalistic film noir thriller, slowly unfolds into a rather political and social entity. At its recent gala screening as part of the 8th Discovering Latin America Film Festival in London, it caused complaints due to its negative portrayal of modern day Colombia. Set on one rain-filled and event-filled night, on the eerie streets of Bogota, Navas’ harsh tale may appear stereotypical with its gangsters, coke fiends, murderers and lowlifes but underneath its genre veneer is a story of an outcry at a country ravaged by armed conflict, the drug trade and poverty.
Shot on digital, Blood and Rain (which there is plenty of) has been compared to Michael Mann’s Collateral. Whereas Mann’s film was an absurd thriller, Navas creates a phantasmagoria of rain-washed streets, dark corners, strangers and ill-lit apartment blocks in which characters drift about like ghosts. Bogota is depicted as labyrinthine and its inhabitants as vicious with dubious intentions.
The initial plot points are hard to discern and for long stretches, the audience will know as little as the protagonists Jorge and Angela. Indeed, towards its bitter finale, the realisation that all is lost is palpable. The narrative is as murky as the cinematography.
In her debut film, lead actress Gloria Montoya gives a feisty, yet, fragile performance as coke addict Angela, who meets taxi driver Jorge (Quique Mendoza) after he randomly picks her up. Their instant rapport and unlikely friendship is however compounded by outside influences. It is doomed from the start. These are damaged people bent on destruction. One is lost in grief and the other, drug addict. Jorge is solely focused on avenging his brother’s murder. When a local gangster Don Hector informs him of the culprit, he is given a gun and some bullets. The downward spiral begins.
If the third act is a meandering affair, it is only because the lead characters fates are now at the whim of others. It is a contrived, albeit, necessary volte face as it heads towards its predictable denouement. Yet it does turns it into a different kind of predictability - a more tragic one.
Navas has spoken about his country burying its head in the sand over its social and criminal problems: Blood and Rain is the response. This slow, nocturnal drama winds like a river before descending into very choppy waters. Major praise must go to Blood and Rain’s cinematography. Its prowling tracking shots and neon-glistening surfaces are a visual feast for the eyes.
Martyn Conterio lives in London, England. After leaving Manchester Metropolitan University, where he studied film, he worked as a script and continuity supervisor for a community arts project ReelMcr. He has written for several major online film magazines including the award-winning Scene 360. He also contributes to Flux magazine. In-between all of this, he publishes poetry and short fiction.
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