Armed with a piece of paper, a government notice informing one of them that he has inherited a parcel of land in a distant province, five young friends from the mean streets of a Colombian city, go off in search of Utopia. In a journey filled with encounters both benign and malign, the boys are pulled into cycles of frustration and hope on their way to the promised land. The dream of freedom represented by the piece of paper somehow manages to survive their many run-ins with the realities of power and injustice and their own internal conflicts.
The youthful cast act with such spontaneity that it makes you forget you are watching a fictional drama and not a documentary. The director, Laura Mora, turns the boys’ journey into an epic that tells the story of the search for freedom and meaning amidst pervasive injustice of the hundreds of millions of marginalized urban youth in the global South that live what the social philosopher Neferti Tadiar calls “disposable lives.” You know how this story is going to end, but you want to see how Mora ends it, and she manages it with one of the most poignant scenes in contemporary cinema.
“The Kings of the World” is a worthy successor to the great 2003 epic, “City of God,” directed by Fernando Meirelles and Katia Lund, that told the story of youth trapped in a life of crime in Rio de Janeiro’s favellas.
Thanks to my friend Nancy Pineiro’s for calling my attention to this great film, which is available on Netflix.