Photo: Berlinale
by Josh Brunsting Film

Los Conductos | Camilo Restrepo

March 6, 2020

Winner of the GWFF Best First Feature award at the 2020 Berlinale, Camilo Restrepo’s Los Conductos is one of the more auspicious feature directing debuts in recent memory. Following the character of Pinky, Los Conductos is less interested in narrative than it is atmosphere and mood. Pinky (played brilliantly by Luis Felipe Lozano) traverses a surrealist, nightmarish vision of Colombia as he breaks free from a religious cult run by a leader simply named “Father.” Shot in stunning 16mm, the film operates on an experiential plane, primarily drawing its narrative from abstruse narration and otherworldly imagery. Shirtless men manually print flames onto textiles in what appears to be a literalization of Hell, and, come the film’s final sequence, Los Conductos delves head first into pure fever dream — potholes have gotten to be so enormous that they actually lead to an entirely new city. So while this may feel like a proto-Jodorowsky mindbender, Restrepo’s eye is much more focused and grounded; his film is one about identity, oppression, and corruption, utilizing a hallucinatory visual landscape that plays as a brazenly esoteric vessel for its universal message. Cinematographer Guillaume Mazloum may very well be the film’s biggest star, his blocky 1:85 framed photography popping off the screen. The soundscape painted here by Arthur Gillette is likewise engrossing, featuring a score that plays perfectly opposite a sound design in tonal lockstep with Restrepo’s directorial choices. Rightly abstracted and defiantly challenging, this may not be universally palatable, but running a mere 70 minutes, it’s worth the plunge as there might not be another cinematic experience quite like this in 2020. 

Published as part of Berlin International Film Festival 2020 | Dispatch 4.