SUNDANCE REVIEW: All Your Dead Ones (Todos Tus Muertos)

Eduardo Carvajal
The challenging pace is a problem, but the film’s idiosyncratic humor and playfully elusive tone keep it somewhat interesting.

Director Carlos Moreno's last film, Dog Eat Dog, went on to festival exposure after being screened at Sundance, but this Colombian civil war-political strife drama will likely resonate most strongly at home.

PARK CITY – An oblique allegory for a desensitized society, Columbian director Carlos Moreno’s second feature, “All Your Dead Ones,” blends Beckettian torpor, mordant comedy and earthy absurdism in a way that’s both distancing and bizarrely intriguing.

Screened at Sundance in 2008, Moreno’s first film, Dog Eat Dog, went on to wide festival play and this one could follow. But its depiction of a country choked by protracted civil war, pandemic political corruption, police intimidation and bureaucratic paralysis will resonate most strongly at home.

The cryptic satire might have lent itself more readily to the form of a single-setting play with just a handful of characters. But Moreno and his d.p. Diego Jiminez bring a strong sense of place, shooting the lethargic action under a scorching sun.

The story unfolds in a dusty farmhouse, a wide-open but airless cornfield and a small town on the day of the mayoral elections.

Opening fragments show a heavy vehicle driving down a country road at night, followed by peasant farmer Salvador (Alvaro Rodriguez) grinding away on top of his wife (Martha Marquez). He begins work in the parched cornfield until tire tracks lead him to a shocking sight – a mound of some 50 dead bodies that looks like a human crop circle.

Instructing his wife and son to lock themselves in the house, Salvador bicycles into town to alert the authorities that a massacre has taken place. Thickset, short and cross-eyed, the farmer is a mildly comical object of ridicule, due also to the perceived mismatch of his younger and more attractive wife. That stigma increases the difficulty of getting anyone to listen to him. Especially when they have their agenda in the election process to distract them.

When Salvador threatens to spill his alarming news on local radio, he finally gets a response and is accompanied by two cops and a municipal functionary back to the scene.

It’s not so much how they handle the situation as how they don’t that interests Moreno and co-writer Alonso Torres. Salvador and his family immediately become implicated, but some lazy investigation suggests the bodies were dumped there by officials from another town. As the day grows longer and sweatier, the corpses end up being merely an annoyance that everybody wants to offload.

There’s not much subtlety to the performances – the family are nervous and fearful, the authority figures indifferent or bullying.

Symbols of violence like a feral-looking dog and a bloodthirsty rooster appear along with surreal touches such as flashes of life from the dead heap. Even at less than 90 minutes, the film is maddeningly slow, but its peculiar stillness becomes absorbing.

Inevitably, it builds toward a sinister outcome, followed by a formation theatrical bow for cast, crew and corpses, perhaps inferring that this is a place where even the gravest of realities become artificial farce.

Production: 64-A Films, in association with Caracol TV, Dago Garcia Producciones, Dynamo

Screenplay: Alonso Torres, Carlos Moreno

Producer: Diego F. Ramirez

Executive producers: Diego F. Ramirez, Nancy Fernandez, Diana Bustamante

Director of photography: Diego Jiminez

Music: Jose Garrido

Editor: Andres Porras

Sales: Shoreline Entertainment

No rating, 82 minutes