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The Kings of the World
film review, Compartimento Cinematográfico

Dec, 18, 2022

by Jeffrey R. Sipe

Los reyes del mundo
Spanish with English subtitles
Wednesday, December 14, 7:30pm
Thursday, December 15, 7pm
Thursday, December 22, 7pm
Wednesday, December 28, 7:30pm

Long ago, when I was just 20 years old, I was standing on a street corner in Bogota surrounded by a group of street children, all about 8 or 9 years old. Despite the countless warnings about groups of young kids in Bogota, there was nothing particularly threatening about them. They just seemed curious. One little boy took my wrist in his hand, and I was immediately on guard. I thought that he was going to steal my watch. He ignored the watch, however, and began to stroke the blonde hair on my wrist, fascinated, it seemed, not only by its color but more so by its softness. In retrospect, it was, no doubt, the kind of softness that had long been absent from his short hardscrabble life.

This memory came back to me while watching the Colombian film Los reyes del mundo, winner of the Golden Shell Award for the best film at last year's San Sebastian Film Festival. The film tells the story of Ra, a teenager from Medellin, who inherits a house in the mountains from his grandmother and journeys to claim the house and the surrounding land with four of his friends whom he refers to as his family, and all of whom plan to finally have a home of their own there.

In scene-after-scene, we clearly see that these five teenagers, streetwise but emotionally vulnerable, have experienced the same absence of softness in their lives as that little boy in Bogota in 1975.

"The other day I dreamed of a day when all men fell asleep... And the fences of the earth burned," is the first line in the film, and the rest of the film observes the dreams of these five boys, all of which appear attainable until their expectations are overturned.

Backed by the spectacular scenery of rural Colombia, the boys set off on a road trip to claim Ra's inheritance, a seemingly simple task that becomes increasingly complicated by government bureaucracy and the boys' own struggle to survive in the absence of adults in their lives. They fight, they laugh, they proclaim their frustrations with the pain of not belonging anywhere with lines like "Your hate makes me strong," "I want to be invisible like a shadow" and "In my world, no one will have more than anyone else."

They only find real solace in a bordello where the women, all old enough to be their mothers, hold them while they dance, the only human warmth they appear to have known.

Although the film is harsh and realistic, it is filmed almost as poetry, with images taking on a dream-like hue while various symbols, including a white horse that could be a symbol for lost purity or purity struggling to emerge, appear throughout the film.

In the end, Los reyes del mundo is an homage to the real kings of the world, the disenfranchised who face misfortune, who belong to places where death is faced daily and yet embrace sensitivity and companionship to as a means of fulfilment and survival.

*****

Compartimento Cinematográfico is at Mezcal Art
next to Immigration on Calzada de la estación.
Admission is free.


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Compartimento Cinematográfico
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Jeffrey R. Sipe is a writer/journalist, who, no matter how hard he writes, having grown up in Speedway, Indiana, still can’t get the sounds of race cars rounding Turn 4 out of his head. He has written about the film industry for Variety, The Hollywood Reporter, Sight and Sound, The Financial Times and other publications. He also once worked as the “boom guy” on a film that nobody saw, but he challenges everyone to see just how long they can hold a metal tube with a microphone attached over their heads.

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