Retratos en un mar de mentiras (Portrait in a sea of lies) is an alluring and well-written narrative and reflection of the modern day Colombian society. As many people displaced by the Colombian Civil War, which began in 1964, Marina’s childhood trauma is attributed to the losses she experienced because of the political conflict. As a result of the prolonged civil clash, Colombian has experienced at least several hundreds of thousands of deaths, and at least 4 million people have been displaced from their homes.
Screenwriter and director, Carlos Garivia, tells the story of Marina, a haunted young woman on a quest to reclaim her family’s land with her freelance photographer cousin, Jairo. The film begins with rainy days in Bogota, Colombia, which brings attention the run-down, dangerous, mudslide territory which Marina and her grandfather dwell in. Once unveiling the abusive relationship between Marina and her drunken grandfather, the beginning unfolds into a huge freak accident. This resulted in a torrential mudslide that splits their fragile home in half and slides off of the cliff, grandfather and all.
Upon the funeral, the audience falls witness to the series of abuse experienced by the unspoken and naive Marina. Pushing the buttons of her employer and what seemingly appears to be her new guardian/a relative, she is demanded to be taken back to claim her old land and be ridded of with her cousin. The following morning, in an old Renault 4 vehicle, Jairo and Marina set off on a road-trip home.
Throughout the film, their are split fragments of Marina’s haunting past and a series of her encounters with the dead. She can clearly identify the dead, occasionally viewing her grandfather, people from her childhood community that were killed by the war, and towards the end, her massacred family. In addition, certain experiences trigger her traumatic past, resulting in her dramatic reactions to soldiers and her distant way of being.
Marina and Jairo experience a guerrilla on their drive along the coast. During this scene, the audience begin to get a general idea of what originally happened to Marina, and demonstrating the compassion both characters have towards each other. Upon arriving to Marina’s hometown, Jairo unknowingly befriends a group of paramilitaries who later kidnap them in search of the land deed. The struggle the two undergo eventually exemplifies a sincere compassion and understanding Marina and Jairo have towards each other.
Paola Baldion’s role as Marina is a captivating and emotive performance. Capturing the terrified and haunting essence of Marina– primarily in silence, a few lines, and a horrified look in her eyes– Baldion managed to convince the audience of the true heartache and confliction witnessed by her character. The entire film builds up to one scene in particular, when Marina has to face the origin of her horrors alone, in order to save Jairo. The moment when Marina is screaming and absolute terror is utterly bone chilling and undeniably convincing; Baldion’s performance is flawless. All while, Julian Roman’s character, Jairo, is convincingly annoying, yet embarrassingly charming throughout the course of the film. By the end of Retratos en un mar de mentiras, both main characters manage to enthrall and engage the audience through their journey.
Retratos en un mar de mentiras not only narrates the life of one scarred and lonely girl, but speaks of an entire country’s sufferings. Yet, with the beautiful scenery and brief moments of comic relief, the Colombian people are illustrated as graceful, strong, and beautiful people.
Watch the trailer for Retratos en un mar de menitras below:
This film was reviewed at the Cine Las Americas International Film Festival. Cine Las Americas is a multi-cultural, 501(c)3 non-profit organization based in Austin Texas. The mission of Cine Las Americas is to promote cross-cultural understanding and growth by educating, entertaining and challenging diverse audiences through film and media arts.