The Colors of the Mountain Carlos César Arbeláe

The Colors of the Mountain Carlos César Arbeláe
Undeniably a pure parable, Columbian director Carlos César Arbeláe's surprisingly assured and naturalistic debut, The Colors of the Mountain, depicts a rural countryside on the brink of civil war. Guerrilla fighters approach humble villagers, attempting to convince them of their cause, occasionally with violence, while government soldiers move in and kill anyone suspected of switching sides. It's a damned-if-you-do-damned-if-you-don't situation mirrored by the seemingly innocent, and potentially heavy-handed, quest of several young children to regain their soccer ball from a minefield. Understandably, the tactic of using injustice and potential harm upon children as an emotional crux could lead a film into cheap, unearned histrionics exploiting the lowest common denominator. But Arbeláe handles his subject matter with restraint and an observatory stance, gradually stripping away the expectation of formula catharsis with the harsh reality of a world indifferent to the individual achieving goals. It's realist cynicism that oddly comes off as touching due to the fine balance of innocent childhood dreams hindered, but not crushed, by an irrational adult world. Incidentally, this leaves the film coming off as somewhat slight, never resonating beyond its straightforward message, but the cohesiveness of the material suggests an artisan to watch out for. Since this is a Film Movement release, the special features are limited to bios and case liner notes, but also included is short film The Swimmers. This Cuban short tells the story of a swimming instructor trying to teach children to swim in an empty pool. Again, the didactics aren't exactly subtle, but director Carlos Lechuga manages to inject a bit of whimsy into what is essentially a lesson for anyone willing to spend 14 minutes viewing. (Film Movement)