Subtlety has become a lost art in cinema. Anything that is slightly ambiguous, open-ended, or challenging tends to elicit equal proportions of confusion and/or hate among mainstream movie goers. In response, studios crank out easily digestible formula flicks and serious film lovers are often left flocking to indie art houses for international fare or low budget risk taking. I mention this in preface to William Vega's "La Sirga" due to the fact that it spells out almost nothing of its central plot. It is left to the viewer to decipher what the bigger picture is behind the tranquil and uneventful depiction that drives the narrative. The movie is quiet, thoughtful, and contemplative. And yet, there is a danger and unease that lurks behind every scene. Set amidst the desolate beaches (or perhaps swamps would be more accurate) of Colombia, the movie alludes to the political atrocities that plague the countryside. Every decision is fueled by this violence, but none of it is ever shown. We see the repercussions, the fear, and the uncertainty largely through the reactions of the actors. This is about the threat, the promise of violence, and the one moment of respite in which our protagonist thinks she might have escaped it. By being so internal, "La Sirga" has a quiet power that is likely to sneak up on you.
The movie begins as a young girl struggles though the swampland before collapsing. Alicia has obviously experienced something quite traumatic that has driven her to flee cross country to the estate of her estranged uncle Oscar. Haunted by demons, she settles into country life and tries to build a new existence. With the affection of a local boy, the growing closeness (perhaps too close) of her Uncle, and the task of fixing up the cottage for the impending tourist season--Alicia breathes new life into this rather mundane world. Through it all, rumors of what is occurring in the surrounding land (and indeed what happened to Alicia's own village) make this bit of tranquility seem like a futile idea. When Oscar's son returns home, it all gets even more uncomfortable. His presence signifies a real danger and menace. Is there really an escape in this volatile land? I won't reveal any more, but most of the drama is played out internally and never overtly discussed. It's an unusually effective storytelling device.
As I've mentioned, "La Sirga" is not so much about what happens but about the way it affects the characters. By holding back just enough, you are driven to connect more fully with the internal dilemmas of Alicia. And everything is written across her face. Much of "La Sirga" stands as a metaphorical contemplation about the state of Colombia. It may not be for everyone with its methodical pacing, lack of big moments, and limited dialogue. But with exquisite cinematography and unending silence, the film has a haunting quality that isn't easy to shake. The Bonus Short Film on the DVD release is also from Vega. Called "Simiente," this 14 minute movie was the inspiration for the longer feature. It shows a girl returning home from an ordinary day to see things are not as she left them. In essence, it could be viewed as the prequel to "La Sirga" and offers additional insight. Colombia is not particularly known for its filmmaking community, but "La Sirga" is a sophisticated entry for adult viewers who appreciate the art of subtlety. About 4 1/2 stars. KGHarris, 7/13.
Let me state upfront that I am a huge fan of the Film Movement library of foreign and independent movies, so much so that last year I finally entered my subscription to their DVD-of-the-month club. This is the April, 2013 release of that subscription.
"La Sirga" (2012 release from Colombia; 90 min.) brings the story of Alicia, a young woman who has just fled from her village which was burnt down, and ending up in a remote part of the Andean wetlands of Colombia at her uncle's. Her uncle manages an inn called "La Sirga" but it is run down and needs serious repair before the upcoming tourist season. Her uncle reminds her that "life is hard here" but Alicia chips in without complaint. She meets Mirichis, a local boy who takes a liking to her. Then, about midway into the movie, out of nowhere shows up Freddy, the uncle's long lost son who might've been "swalloped by the mountains". To tell you more of the plot would ruin your viewing experience, you'll just have to see for yourself how it all plays out.
Several comments: this movie proceeds at a snail's pace, and I mean that as a compliment. Writer-director William Vega just let the scenes unfold, taking his time and letting us taking in the beauty of it all, and in fact showcasing the beauty of modesty. Indeed, these lives are played out in utter modesty, and hardship too. The scenery of the movie, set in the wetlands of the Andean, is nothing short of astonishing and is eye-candy from start to finish. Also, Joghis Seudin Arias as Alicia brings a world performance. The DVD comes with a number of extras, including a look behind the scenes of the making, but even better, a 14 min. short called "Simiente", also from director Vega, which was the original inspiration of "La Sirga". Bottom line: this is MILES away from your standard Hollywood fare, but oh so rewarding. "La Sirga" is HIGHLY RECOMMENDED!
The second installment in the Film on Friday feature is La Sirga, the feature directorial debut of William Vega. The film was an Official Selection at Cannes as well at Toronto's International Film Festival and more
La Sirga is set in Columbia. The time frame is not specified, but it could be anytime from the end of the last century to present day. Alicia has fled from her village - her parents have been killed and the village razed by the armed conflict. She has made her way on foot to the home of her paternal uncle Oscar, who lives alone in a run down hostel, named La Sirga.
The film was shot on the shores of La Cocha, a site considered sacred by the indigenous people of the area. The setting was absolutely stunning - haunting and harsh, yet beautiful in its bleakness and isolation. The setting itself becomes just as much a character in the film as the actors.
La Sirga is subtitled in Spanish, but there is very little dialogue. It is what is not said that speaks the loudest. What is at first interpreted as silence is not. Vega uses sounds such as rain, waves, the rustling of reeds, a flapping metal roof, the crackling of the fire and more to great affect. The loudest part of the movie is the impromptu musical gathering at the hostel. The music is toe tapping and joyful, in contrast to the hardscrabble life at the hostel.
I enjoyed the different camera angles employed by Vega - following Alicia on foot was extremely effective as was using the windows of the hostel to frame scenes.
Undercurrents of what might or could happen are just under the surface throughout the film. The threats are not overt but dangerous possibilities are there. Again, no dialogue is needed to transfer this feeling - it is there in the hanging scarecrow, the bullet hole in the window of the watchtower, the actions of the young boatman and the return of Oscar's son. Much of the film is not explained or voiced - it is up to the viewer to watch, catch and piece together what is and what does happen.
Much of the film is metaphorical, with the patching and painting of the hostel mirroring Alicia's rebuilding of herself. Alicia's sleepwalking and burying of candles speak of her losing the light in her life. The acting was brilliantly subtle, with glances and nuances again speaking volumes.
La Sirga was a powerful film that conveyed much by using little. Excellent.
on August 24, 2015
First, the movie is wonderful- scenery and subtlety. Second, altho I struggled to understand what was going on, I think when Alicia's uncle asked her which armband the destroyers of her village wore, and she answered she didn't know- it meant they didn't have armbands and that the men who destroyed her home were government/right wing. The boy whom she befriends is neutral it seems, yet he plies his delivery trade with rebels, delivering guns to them. It seems Freddie works for the right wing and knows they plan to come to that part of the world. He kills her friend. packs his bag in the night and goes in Alicia's bedroom to warn Alicia to take his father and leave La Sirga. She leaves when she discovers her friend's carving left on Freddie's bed, but she leaves without the uncle. Now I could be wrong- was it her uncle who killed the boy and was it his bed she discovers the carving? But I think it was Freddie who did the killing and Freddie's bed. Freddie may have done it out of expedience to leave her no excuse not to take his father to the city. maybe he thought if the boy were out of the way that she would leave with his father and escape the violence to come (implied). Freddie may have killed the boy because the boy was a rival gun runner. Alicia apparently take Freddie seriously that it will be dangerous to stay at the lake, and there is nothing now to keep her at La Sirga. She knows her friend is dead but Alica doesn't wait to take her uncle with her. She is seen walking away alone, and she is looking a lot better than when she is seen at the opening of the movie.
LA SIRGA (`The Towrope') is a stunningly beautiful little film from the mind and pen and direction of William Vega, a California-born graduate in social communications from the University del Valle in Colombia, who mastered in film and TV scripting at the TAI College of Arts and Entertainment in Madrid. Vega has subsequently served as a university teacher, director, screenwriter and assistant director for film, video and TV projects. In 2010, he was assistant to Oscar Ruiz Navia on the latter's Berlin award-winner Crab Trap. Though he has created several short films - Amnesia (2001), Sunrise (2003), Tricolor Soccer Club (2005), Juan Mochilas (2011) and Simiente 2012 from which he developed La Sirga) - LA SIRGA is his first feature film and it is a dazzling success. Vega has said, `Writing La Sirga originated from my being seduced by the thought of a peripheral geographic location unknown to Colombians and the world. The manifestation of wonderment from the people of that area goes way beyond the space itself. Farmers with an Indian legacy are today ideologically insistent to maintain their traditions, for a clean and transparent relationship with the land and their brothers, so that it may extend throughout time and beyond space. Families and neighbors construct admirable lives in the midst of a country suffering conflict, hunger, inequality and war. This is a community with a proposal to transform thinking and relationships, which other brothers are unaware of, brothers who hurt and bleed the earth dry. Years ago I was working on a TV documentary series. I traveled through remote areas of Colombia, territories where socio-political problems and armed conflict have arisen for many years. In one of these places I found whole communities trying to rebuild their lives, making their existence around a beautiful lake. That was La Cocha, a sacred and inspiring site, full of symbols that dictated a story mixing real and imagined events. That was what shaped this fiction called La Sirga.'
From the opening views of the land and water of the high Andes it is clear that the political unrest that is driving the wandering girl is embodied in wind and water: those natural elements continue to play a central role throughout the film. LA SIRGA a mood piece - magical richly if vaguely evocative. A teenage Colombian refugee, Alicia (Joghis Seudin Arias) is a vulnerable 19-year-old woman who sleepwalks and tries to rebuild her life at an Inn located on the shores of a great lake in the Andes - La Cocha. She is running from the burning of her house and killing of her parents by unspecified hostile forces. Alicia spends her days working with Flora (Floralba Achicanoy) refurbishing the weather damaged inn to make it ready for tourists who never appear, with her uncle Oscar (Julio César Roble) and his son Fredy (Heraldo Romero). No one is very friendly and everything is tenuous but perhaps her greatest ally is Mirichis (the very handsome and gifted David Fernando Guacas), a young man who does errands on a boat and wants to go away with her. All is uncertainty ("I don't know" is the main answer to questions). It's all about metaphor, the dilapidated inn representing Colombia itself. But the place itself, the vast quiet lake and swampy borders and big plants, is also all very real, and conceals the secrets of the underlying strife that is ever present in the way this story unfolds. Watch the opening moments carefully: they hold many answers to the questions the film explores.
LA SIRGA is unquestionably one of the finest art films of the year and William Vega is obviously destined for an important future in the development of cinematic art. And the cinematography by Sofia Oggioni is breathtaking. Bravo to Film Movement for discovering and presenting a true little masterpiece. Highly Recommended. Grady Harp, July 13
on April 11, 2015
La Sirga is a South American film and one I consider very good. I doubt that most American moviegoers would like it, however because it lacks the snappy dialogue, intriguing plot and chase scenes that are staples of Hollywood productions. I like foreign films and usually South American productions in particular. I enjoy the scenery and seeing how other cultures live on a daily basis.
If you want something apart from the run of the mill movie made in Hollywood, you might like this one.
on September 6, 2013
fabulous movie- Tarkovski influence yes- poetic masterpiece- as to plot- no problem- let me explain- the government destroyed the girl's village as being too primitive, too left/cooperative- and they left her father hanging as a warning- the nice guy who makes the figurines is killed by the evil son of the "inn" keeper (and who knows how he is involved- but both of them were running guns (i wonder where the famed Columbian cocaine fits in?)- at the end poor Michilitis is left hanging- maybe that was a flash forward at the beginning of the movie-the girl has tried to start again- but the conflict is everywhere around her- the innkeeper's (evil?) son tries to warn her to flee w her uncle- why? He knows what is coming? O well- I tried.
I like to explain things (as you can see whether I know what's going on or not!)
I loved "El Morro"- the floating weed island that comes around now and then- m y theory is it's just what happens on Lake Cocha- is not supernatural at all- just something I have never seen.
The palette of this movie- fog white and dusk blues- is fantabulous!
I have seen great movies this weekend- from director Michael Hanete and this one.
Americans, other than Terence Malick, cannot make such films
on June 26, 2016
Mysterious and strikingly filmed, La Sirga leaves as many questions as it answers. In the first scene, a 19-year-old girl marches and stumbles through the swamp as she flees the guerrillas who killed her parents. Eventually she arrives at her uncle's rubdown hostel, situated on the rough shores of a lake in the Andes. Although he lives a hardscrabble life, he takes her in and says she looks like her mother.
La Sirga is populated with flawed characters with unclear motives. Who are the guerrillas? Is the girl safe in her new home? Her uncle tends to her when she sleepwalks to the beach, but then he peers through the boards as she changes into her night dress.
Why are the fishermen on the lake hiding rifles under their nets? Even with follow-up research, the dangers and conflicts stalking the region are intangible, leaving the viewer to ponder war, gun-running, and how one can be caught up in danger when she just starts to feel safe.
on March 12, 2016
Very good movie involving a teenage Colombian girl trying to escape the violence that resulted in the death of her parents and seeking a degree of safety in a rural valley with her uncle who is not particularly pleased to see her but nonetheless takes care of her. All appears well until she sees the seeds of violence moving into the area where she feels safe. The acting is very good and the scenery beautiful.
"La Sirga" (the `towpath') is one of those rare films that is intimate, mysterious and meticulously filmed. `Alice' is a young woman alone in the Columbian wilderness. Through sparse dialogue and subtle acting, we learn she is escaping from her war-torn village to live with a relative. She finds her new home sitting on the edge of a large lake, the building falling apart daily. It is a dilapidated hostel and the residents prepare for what they hope with be arriving `turistas'. It is the basics of gracious poverty.
Although the hostel and surroundings are in disrepair with daily rainstorms threatening the home, the family slowly builds it back, along with the help of `Alice', the newcomer. Throughout the film, one gets an eerie sense of foreboding. Alice frequently sleepwalks with a candle to bury it in the water's mud. Walls have many cracks through which others can be seen. Candles flicker disturbingly. Questionable men come and go with supplies, all having an interest in Alice.
Alice proves to be a strong reliant newcomer and her presence is welcomed and appreciated. The sometimes ominous atmosphere is exuded through the careful filming of Director William Vega (also the writer). As the hostel grows into shape, so does Alice and the mood is often set by the flickering of candlelight or the looming presence of storm clouds. Alice's calm acceptance of her world brings a new life into the hostel and the family.
Director Vega films carefully, noting small details and captures intensely intimate private moments, causing the viewer to wonder how the lot will unfold. Filled with symbolism, metaphors and hope, `La Sirga' satisfies on a visual and intellectual level with its sheer beauty and simplicity. DVD supplied by FilmMovement for review.