The Kings of the World (Los Reyes del Mundo) is a painfully raw story in which silence speaks louder than words.
Directed by Laura Mora Ortega, the film is a transcendent experience that plays with viewers’ emotions using beautiful imagery and impactful dialogue.
Originally released in Colombia on Oct. 13 of last year, it was recently added on Netflix on Jan. 4. While it’s still early to tell, the film could be on its way to be an important landmark in Colombian cinema. Since its release, it has won six awards and earned several nominations. Among these are the golden seashell for best film at the San Sebastián International Film Festival, best production design at the Chicago International Film Festival, and the crème de la crème award at the Warsaw International Film Festival.
The film follows five homeless teens as one of them tries to reclaim his grandmother’s property, who had been displaced from the land and left it under his name. Their journey from the city of Medellin to el Bajo Cauca is a dangerous one, full of rejection and humiliation, on top of memorable scenes that leave the viewers either confused, mesmerized, shocked, or a combination of all three.
The movie is filmed in a way that makes the viewer feel like the sixth person in this dramatic journey. This level of immersion and intimacy results in breathtaking moments either from the beauty or tense scenarios, as the viewer waits for the worst thing to happen.
The chemistry between the group is the definition of blood does not define family as these teens are willing to put their lives at risk for one another. Some of the most beautiful scenes were without dialogue, the distorted music that accompanied these scenes made for a bone-chilling experience as you could see the pain and the sadness on the actors’ faces.
An example of this is when they find a brothel in the middle of nowhere. Here, the music distorts and the shot switches to them dancing with older women in complete silence. The sadness portrayed on both the teens’ and the women’s faces is a melancholic scene that can be interpreted as the teens being embraced by the mothers they are missing and the women embracing the children they have lost to violence.
There are other surreal interactions like this one throughout the film, which makes the viewer wonder what is real and what is not, making them open to interpretation so the viewer makes their own meaning of these interactions.
Some background information worth keeping in mind is that while Colombia’s poverty rate was steadily dropping since the early 2000s, it saw a huge spike during the pandemic driving it up to nearly 40 per cent, according to Macrotrends. This large uptick, in addition to low government spending on social services, led to increased crime rates. Colombia’s classism makes matters worse with discrimination toward this vulnerable population which results in generalization, isolation, and misunderstandings.
This is worth keeping in mind as the film focuses on this discrimination towards the marginalized. Every time the group of teens was rejected or humiliated their resentment towards society and the upper class grew. They performed acts of vandalism in response to fueled anger, resulting in morally gray areas that were striking to see.
“How strong I am because I hate, how strong I am because of your hatred” – this quote during the teens’ biggest act of rebellion shows the cycle of contempt between classes. Acts of vandalism make the “higher” class reject the lower and the rejection fuels the “lower” class to perform those acts resulting in a vicious cycle with no end in sight.
There is a lot to unpack from this film; this is just the tip of the iceberg and words don’t do it justice as the film is best experienced first-hand. For any international-film lovers, The Kings of the World is an unmissable experience.
You can watch the trailer here.