Warsaw 2022: The Crème de la Crème Competition

in 38th Warsaw International Film Festival

by Ariel Schweitzer

“The Kings of the World” (Los reis del mundo) by Laura Mora (Colombia/Luxemburg/Mexico/France coprodution)

After winning the Grand Prix at the San Sebastian, Biarritz and Zurich festivals, The Kings of the World continues its path to success by also winning the prestigious “Crème de la Crème” competition at the Warsaw festival. This is good news for Colombian cinema, which confirms the vitality of this cinematography in recent years. This recognition is especially pleasing since Laura Mora is a woman filmmaker in a cinematography largely dominated by men. Mora, who studied in Australia before coming back to Colombia in 2008, has already had success with at international festivals with her short films.

The Kings of the World is the story of Rá, Culebro, Sere, Winny and Nano. Five homeless kids from the streets of Medellín. Five kings without a kingdom, without law, without family. Rootless. In their hands they have the old property titles of a piece of land inherited by Rá. There lies the possibility of finally having a place of their own, where they can be free. Somewhere they can be safe and call home. After receiving the final letter from the government’s land restitution program, Rá decides to embark on a journey with his friends to claim that piece of land, from where his grandma was once expelled by paramilitary groups. They leave Medellín, cross the mountain range in search of El Bajo Cauca, a region where beauty and violence meet. But everything is worth it on this long journey.

The Kings of the World contrasts with the urban naturalism to which we are accustomed in Colombian cinema in recent years, by the introduction – sometimes clumsy, often convincing – of some elements both epic and oneiric. First, the reference to the road-movie genre, which transforms this journey into an odyssey where the discovery of the majestic and wild landscape of the inner Colombia also works as a revelation of the soul of the characters, their fragility, but also their determination and their mental force. Indeed, in this country where the law of the jungle and violence reigns, the  rare testimonies of humanity – like a meeting with a marginal living alone in a hut in the forest – make the young heroes believe that another existence is perhaps possible on this land.

The frontal and abrupt realism that dominates sometimes gives way to dreamlike moments that enrich the film with a new and more mysterious dimension, such as the magnificent sequence where we see bicycles flying slowly through the air, an image without any narrative function but of great aesthetic and lyrical power. This mystery also characterizes the unfolding of the plot, because a few times during this odyssey, one of the characters forming the group of teenagers at the heart of the film disappears without any explanation, leaving us the possibility or choice to guess the reasons for this vanishment (first there are a group five, then four, then only three that we follow in the last part of the  movie).

This oneiric aspect of the film is preserved until the very last sequence which refers to the myth of the Lost Paradise. In this wonderful landscape of Colombia’s countryside, but in the heart of a wild and corrupt society, Mora ask us if paradise can’t be anything else but a mirage?

Ariel Schweitzer
Edited by Amber Wilkinson