Director: Juan Andrés Arango
Cast: Luis Carlos Guevara, Jamés Solís, Andrés Murillo
La Playa DC is a vastly different movie from Maria, Full of Grace, focusing on a whole different angle to the country of Colombia. A young Tomas (Guavera) ekes out a living working at an establishment transporting and packaging potatoes. One of the first dialogues in the movie is a simple, ‘Chaco is back, he has been deported”, referring to his older brother, Chaco (Solís). I was struck by the ordinariness of it all, the quiet acceptance of crime as a way to tide over poverty.
Tomas and his mother live with her new partner, Roel and their baby and we see an obvious tension between Tomas and Roel. There is no love lost between them and the tension escalates when Tomas’ younger brother, Jairo (Murillo), a drug addict returns after many months on the street. Both the brothers leave the house and when Tomas loses Jairo again, he decided to look for Chaco so that the both of them can together search for Jairo.
The three brothers have carefully etched out characters; Chaco is the more cavalier, Tomas the quiet, introspective one and Jairo, the uncontrollable little druggie. Tomas joins Chaco in doing small jobs to get by and the both of them start saving money for Chaco’s big dream of leaving the country. Racism is rampant and Afro-Colombians are rarely respected as equal members of society and Chaco simply wants to leave. We don’t see Tomas sharing the same desperate desire to leave. He begins sketching designs and we wonder what his dream is.
We are in for a surprise as the movie takes a refreshing turn. The hair cuts! The beautiful, intricate designs on the head…with clippers and razors and blades. The mainstay of this movie is definitely its focus on the interesting hair culture of Colombia. Till I watched this movie, I had no idea that that so much could go into the simple hair cut. Tomas’ designs are noticed by a local barber who he starts working for. His designs are well received and he realises that he has found his dream; away from the drug-addled streets, away from the flee-the-country hopes of Chaco and the risk of deportation – his dream is to simply make beautiful designs and cut hair. Colombia’s culture of haircuts is indeed fascinating.
Watch this movie that opens a window into something we might never have thought about! La Playa DC is Colombia’s official entry for Best Foreign Language Film at the 86th Academy Awards.
Verdict: Quiet movie with not much fanfare.
Hot: To break free from the cycle of poverty but also the insidious power of family is a heartening thing to watch.
Not: Seems a bit amateurish in parts. The dialogues could’ve flown better.