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  • Portraits in a Sea of Lies (Retratos en un mar de mentiras) | Review

    Cine Las Americas 2011

    By | May 3, 2011

    Director: Carlos Gaviria

    Writer: Carlos Gaviria

    Starring: Paola Baldión, Julián Román

    Marina (Paola Baldión) is a shy, spacy and practically mute young woman who lives with her abusive grandfather (Edgardo Román) in a leaky old shed. When her grandfather dies in a freak accident, Marina is passed along to live and work with her womanizing cousin, Jairo (Julián Román).

    Jairo is a Polaroid photographer who uses his occupation as an excuse to bed the bevy of bikini-clad buxom babes who pass between the front of his camera lens and the cheesy tropical backdrops. Marina takes the roll of Jairo’s handy-dandy prop handler in stride, dutifully assisting with the carrying of sombreros, rocking horses, etc. — we sense that even this is an improvement over the time she spent with her grandfather.

    The two cousins hop in Jairo’s car and embark upon a road trip to the land where their grandfather once owned a house. The goal is to literally unearth their grandfather’s deed to the land, then cash in the deed in order to claim their inheritance from the government — actually this is solely Jairo’s plan, Marina could care less about the inheritance, she is just along for the ride.

    This is where Portraits in a Sea of Lies transforms into a somewhat traditional road movie, as writer-director Carlos Gaviria utilizes the ample driving time to showcase his documentary roots; he integrates several ethnographic sequences into the narrative as a means for the audience to visually contemplate the true-to-life political, social and financial unrest festering within the Colombian borders. Gaviria also uses these neo-realist techniques as a way to ground his fantastical forays into magic realism — being that Marina exists primarily in her own mind, Gaviria allows us the opportunity to glimpse the world from Marina’s dreamlike perspective.

    The road trip also triggers a series of childhood flashbacks in Marina’s mind, as she frightfully relives the moment when her parents were murdered. We instantly understand why Marina is so timid and bashful — she experienced this life-scarring atrocity that left her an orphan at such a young age. This here is the point of Gaviria’s film: to enlighten foreign audiences about the ramifications of the violence in Colombia. (10% of Colombia’s population has been displaced by violence.) We see guns and violence everywhere along Marina and Jairo’s journey; it seems completely normal to the Colombians, as if they see men armed with machine guns every day — and that might be true, since thereappears to be a constant battle between guerrilla forces and the Colombian Army. While Marina and Jairo are stopped on a mountain road during one such battle, one spectator pays Jairo for a Polaroid to commemorate his first ambush. It is a completely absurd scenario; but, then again, so is the endless violence.

    Portraits in a Sea of Lies won the Jury Award for Best Narrative Feature at the 14th Cine Las Americas International Film Festival.

    Rating: 7/10

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