The story is very straightforward but takes some time to get going. Delino is happy go lucky constantly smiling and looking to give is the other guy the benefit of the doubt. The elder Jacobo having seen the criminal and violent elements in the town through the actions of both paramilitary and guerrilla forces is more stern and suspicious.
The narrative picks up well into the journey when the pair's cargo is threatened. The duo have a short time to react and recover as the transfer is set to occur at sundown that day. Writer cinematographer Alan Blanco is at his best showing life along the river. The look of the production peaks as the camera trains its lens on normal village activities along the riverbank as our protagonists motor by. Director writer Josef Wladyka excels at building tension in a scene. A strong example is a sequence where our heroes run into a guerrillas patrol while riding the rails on a Brujita. Delino and Jacobo have to move the Brujita to the side while being questioned by the guerrillas. They are particularly at risk since they are not from the area and the local with them had just put a major obstacle in their path to complete their job.
Another key element in the story is the disconnect between Afro and Latin Columbians. They argue over who is the better soccer player Pele or Zico. The debate is emphasized in one fireside argument with Latin-Columbian Hector (Hadder Blandon) who is the link to gang that provided the job. Then again when Delio cannot understand why Jacobo wants to move to Bogota because as he states repeatedly that there are no black people in the Columbian capital unless they are doing manual labour.
The two main actors are a good fit for their roles. They spend a lot of time together on the boat, sing traditional local songs and change in their initial opinions as the story progresses. Jocobo is hard on Delio and the ways of his generation at the outset but at an early moment of truth he is there to defend his brother. Delio's trusting persona slowly drifts away leading to a critical moment when he has to make a major decision to protect the pair that is far from an act of a happy go luck individual.
Manos Sucias is a basic story with a few twist and turns. After the action picks up the film finds its rhythm and the audience becomes invested in the fate of Delio and Jacobo. Josef Wladyka presents a story seen from viewpoint of Afro-Columbian youth. If you have an interest in the region and hang in during the slower early parts of the narrative then the film is worth a watch.
** 1/2 Out of 4.
Manos Sucias | Josef Wladyka | U.S.A. /Columbia | 2014 | 84 Minutes.
Tags: Narco torpedo, Smuggling, Crime, Buenaventura, Fishermen, Rapping, Paramilitary, Guerrillas.