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Review: Adieu Sauvage


- Sergio Guataquira Sarmiento delivers a wonderful first feature film about an initiatory search into his Indian roots, metamorphosing into an unforgettable tale of friendship

Review: Adieu Sauvage

"I’m a descendent of a people who have more or less disappeared, all that’s left are a few indigenous and mixed-race people dotted around the world". Having arrived in Europe at the age of 19 and lived in Brussels for many years, Colombian Sergio Guataquira Sarmiento carries a complex idea of his identity deep inside of him, because not only is he living in exile, he’s also an Indian, and "being an Indian person in Colombia is a burden, a source of shame, so we tend to lie low and westernise ourselves." When the filmmaker learns that an epidemic of young indigenous people hanging themselves is raging through the jungle in his home country, he decides to visit the area in person, moved by a desire to investigate this phenomenon, but also to untangle his own confused feelings related to his roots. This journey is central to his wonderful first feature film (set in beautiful black and white tones) Adieu Sauvage, which world premiered in competition at the 45th Cinéma du Réel Festival.

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Arriving in Mitù, in south-eastern Colombia, bordering Brazil and the Vaupès River, the filmmaker - who was repeatedly told by his father that he was a "prince of indigenous nobility, the last representative of the Chibchas" (which only worsened the bullying he experienced at school), but who’s mostly aware of the fact that all his "ancestors were drunks" and his "grandfather a bus driver" - begins his investigations somewhat blindly ("most suicides are related to heartache. White people say that these savages don’t feel anything in this region forgotten by everyone and everything"), in nigh-on tourist-like fashion, feeling like "those children who flit between two worlds without really belonging to either of them."

But meeting Laureano Gallego Lopez, a Cacua Indian from the Wacara community who invites him into this very same community, paves a way to the jungle for him. So, off he sets in a canoe on his initiatory quest, a real human adventure which sees him gradually discovering who he is (and ultimately his limitations) but, first and foremost, discovering who the Indians are, learning about their beliefs (their faith in the power of nature, the sacredness of the mountain, etc.) which have been eroded by time and by civilisation, their harsh and destitute daily lives ("Indians hunt, Indians fish, Indians get by"), and their secret emotions which he ends up unveiling…

Magnificently shot by David Garcia, who captures the essence of the powerful landscape and whose camera sculpts the protagonists’ faces, and guided by the voice-over of a director who laughs at himself voluntarily, Adieu Sauvage depicts a highly personal ethnographic exploration where the budding friendship between himself and Laureano helps shed light on the culture in question and pays moving tribute to this forgotten people who "are suffocating from holdings things in." It’s a wonderful blend of nostalgia and love which builds a bridge between two worlds and which marks a brilliant debut in the feature film world.

Adieu Sauvage is produced by Belgium’s Fox the Fox Productions and French firm Grand Angle Productions, in co-production with Belga Productions, VOO and Be tv.

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(Translated from French)

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