Have ac­cor­dion, will travel

Pasatiempo - - Moving Images - Casey Sanchez I The New Mex­i­can

The Wind Jour­neys; ethno-mu­si­cal trav­el­ogue; not rated; in Span­ish, Palen­quero, Ikun, and Wayu­u­naiki with sub­ti­tles; CCA Cine­math­eque, 2.5 chiles There’s no mis­tak­ing Ig­na­cio Car­rillo’s ac­cor­dion. With jet-black skin and white keys, the squeeze­box is flanked by two large horns screwed in to the left-and right-hand man­u­als. It might as well come with a skull and cross­bones or a West Coast Chop­pers iron cross. It is said to be haunted. One star-struck kid in the mu­si­cian’s small north­ern Colom­bia town asks Ig­na­cio, “Is that the devil’s ac­cor­dion?”

“No!” blurts Ig­na­cio, but the grief the in­stru­ment has caused him seems hellish in its own way. With his wife re­cently buried, he has vowed never to play the ac­cor­dion again, and he sets off on his don­key for the re­mote town of Taroa, in the La Gua­jira desert, to re­turn the ac­cor­dion to its maker and right­ful owner. So be­gins The Wind Jour­neys, a new film by 29-yearold Colom­bian filmmaker Ciro Guerra. Shot in more than 80 lo­ca­tions in Colom­bia, the film serves as a sur­real Na­tional Geo­graphic-style

guide to the coun­try, set to a blis­ter­ing sound­track of Caribbean val­lenato and cumbia. The film’s di­a­logue is in Span­ish along with Palen­quero, Ikun, and Wayu­u­naiki, the lan­guages spo­ken in Colom­bia’s in­dige­nous com­mu­ni­ties.

Ig­na­cio (Mar­ciano Martínez) is joined in his jour­ney across Colom­bia’s be­wil­der­ing ar­ray of land­scapes by teenager Fer­min Morales (Yull Núñez). Fer­min claims to be the or­phaned son of a trav­el­ing juglar, or ac­cor­dion min­strel. As a di­rec­tor, Guerra wisely avoids a sac­cha­rine plot by re­veal­ing Fer­min to be mostly de­void of mu­si­cal tal­ent. In­stead, Fer­min plays the role of a naive, wide-eyed San­cho Panza on Ig­na­cio’s quixotic quest to travel across a coun­try to re­turn a cursed ac­cor­dion.

The first ad­ven­ture this duo stum­bles upon is a pi­que­ria, a sort of rap-bat­tle arena for ac­cor­dion­ists who trot out raunchy, boast­ing lyrics to taunt other juglars. This bat­tle of the ac­cor­dion play­ers is one of the high­lights of the movie. The ac­cor­dion duel in­volves ac­cu­sa­tions of sor­cery and a ridicu­lous amount of male brag­gado­cio set to the burn­ing rhythms of val­lenato folk mu­sic. Un­for­tu­nately, it ends with Ig­na­cio be­ing stabbed by a jeal­ous old man, his ma­chete cleav­ing the bel­lows of Ig­na­cio’s ac­cor­dion.

From there, Ig­na­cio and Fer­min head to the top of a moun­tain to meet Ig­na­cio’s brother, who mirac­u­lously re­pairs the ac­cor­dion. De­spite their spec­tac­u­lar sur­round­ings, the men have lit­tle joy in their hearts. Fer­min desperately wants Ig­na­cio to be a fa­ther fig­ure and ac­cor­dion teacher, and yet nei­ther role in­ter­ests the older man in the slight­est.

When they come down off the moun­tain with the newly re­stored ac­cor­dion, their luck changes very lit­tle. Ig­na­cio ends up hav­ing to play val­lenato mu­sic at a party for a boy he fa­thered and left be­hind dur­ing his reck­less days as a trav­el­ing min­strel. In an­other town, Ig­na­cio is once again forced to play his ac­cor­dion, this time by a gang of thugs who want a val­lenato sound­track for a grue­some, bloody ma­chete fight. Ig­na­cio keeps play­ing even af­ter the van­quished man is dead, and the val­lenato serves as a fu­neral song. Both scenes serve as use­ful cor­rec­tives for any­one who thinks that val­lenato is purely party mu­sic. Guerra in­cludes these scenes to show how the ac­cor­dion songs are in­ter­wo­ven with ev­ery stage of life (and death) in ru­ral Colom­bia.

Near the film’s end, Fer­min seems to find the recog­ni­tion he’s been look­ing for when he be­comes a drum­mer in a syn­cretic re­li­gious cer­e­mony. Af­ter a long solo on drums, he has his head marked with the blood of a lizard. How­ever, the cer­e­mony does lit­tle to en­dear him to Ig­na­cio, who con­tin­ues to ig­nore the boy. The recog­ni­tion he seeks only comes af­ter he res­cues Ig­na­cio’s stolen ac­cor­dion.

What stays with you about this film are the un­der­ap­pre­ci­ated land­scapes of ru­ral Colom­bia and its hothouse val­lenato mu­sic. Di­rec­tor Guerra rev­els in these scenes and sounds, per­haps over­com­pen­sat­ing for the short and clipped speech of his char­ac­ters. It is a road movie to be sure, but it is set to the pace of a don­key trav­el­ing on dirt roads. While the plot tends to peter out at dif­fer­ent points, what emerges from

The Wind Jour­neys is a vivid por­trait of Colom­bia’s in­te­rior, its ru­ral peo­ple, and above all, an ac­cor­dion mu­sic that seems as much a way of life as it is a col­lec­tion of songs. ◀

Don­key Otee: Mar­ciano Martínez

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