Wednesday, November 28, 2007

Soñar no cuesta nada (A Ton of Luck)

Free tequila! Not sure why though, as this was the festival's Colombian gala night and that nation's embassy mob were out in force.

The narrative of Rodrigo Triana's film is grounded on a set of real, reported events: in 2003 a patrol of Colombian troops chasing FARC guerrillas around the more inaccessible parts of the local rainforest, stumbled upon an abandoned 'narco-terrorista' camp where $46m in cash (in various currencies and denominations) had been hastily buried by its former occupants.

The movie outperformed Pirates at the Colombian box office. It's at its most entertaining whilst it explores the immediate ethical and economic chaos that this discovery causes in the ranks.

Although one amongst them refuses his share of this 'dirty money', he accepts an order from the platoon lieutenant to keep his trap shut about their plan to pocket the hoard without reporting it. Stuck in the jungle until their commanders are finally persuaded to send in a chopper to extract them, the soldiers experience the angst of wealth without an outlet. Bog rolls sell for $500, exchange rates fluctuate wildly and they feast on roasted mico using greenbacks as firelighters.

The script has been careful to paint the elite 'destroyer' unit as a close-knit bunch of highly likeable rogues, from whose naivety much of the comedy springs. There's a somewhat unlikely generosity welling up out of their collective covetousness.

After a couple of hairy moments, they arrive back at the barracks with their rucksacks full of plata and are granted a day of leave, and thus the predictable conspicuous consumption commences, which of course leads to the unraveling of their little conspiracy.

Being essentially a true story, its value as a morality play is somewhat compromised. Yet rather than dwell on the fates of the rumbled soldiers, screenwriter Jorge Hiller has bookended the tale with a sentimental story that introduces the wife and child of the one man who appeared incorruptible, a stratagem which delivers a minor twist and a limited sense of conclusion.

One of the key rationalisations for appropriating this dinero de nadie that the soldiers deploy is that it will only be pocketed by even bigger thieves further up the food chain. I'd love to know what did actually happen to all that dosh once the military authorities had confiscated it. (My understanding is that 50 of the 150 men involved were eventually brought to trial, and have since been released when that trial collapsed.)

There was a Cuban short shown before the main feature: El año del Cerdo which cleverly traces two interlinked sets of coincidental events affecting a set of characters in an apartment block above a Chinese restaurant, which both unfolded during The Year of the Pig.

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