I think the very best thing about Manos Sucias (Dirty Hands) is its cinematography - written together by Josef Kubota Wladyka and Alan Blanco with Wladyka sitting in the director's chair. The film, executive-produced by Spike Lee, is lensed by Alan Blanco in a tone that is grim and concise, assisting Wladyka in his first feature length to convey a message via the basic storyline of two central characters, Delio and Jacobo respectively limned by Cristian James Abvincula and Jarlin Javier Martinez.
I say this with utmost excitement that films like these are still being made and what's even better here is that new writers and directors are tackling important subjects. There are a few memorable close-up shots, but what I can't seem to let go of is that both Josef and Alan, in my opinion, have written the film from the point of view of a narco-torpedo filled with millions of dollars worth of cocaine being dragged in the water via a boat. Of course, I say this due to the impressive point of view shots during the first, second and third act, with the final one captured from under the water.
Both Delio and Jacobo, brothers as we later learn, have embarked on this dangerous journey of trafficking drugs up the Pacific coast of Colombia and hidden in the waves is that narco-torpedo. They must brave the war-torn region to deliver it to its destination, a checkpoint, for quick cash in Panama in order to mainly fulfill a goal of their own. Delio, the younger brother and only 19, is a father who is doing this job only to impress the boss in order to gain more opportunities in the future. The older brother Jacobo, already a veteran in the drug trafficking business, is broken from inside; he's a man who has lost a loved one and is desperate to abandon the region for good.
There is a sense of classicism in Wladyka's work. I hope that he stays this way and continues in such tradition. The way Manos Sucias has been told, shot and performed, as far as I see, is the best way - you get caught up in the problem the characters are going through. You feel what they feel and certainly nothing else in the film is over the top to divert minds of the viewer, such as the action sequences, shots of the gray water, the sky and close-up takes of actors' faces, their expressions, and the metaphorical point of view angles. In other words, no one is showing-off, which is better, and it's an attitude I much prefer to see in writers and directors. So, thanks to Josef and his team for staying classy throughout.
Wladyka's film happens to be a work that relies less on action and explosions; it would rather be calm, but straight to the point in its essential themes. Depiction of culture, for instance - hopes and dreams of the youth in Colombia. The film's prime concern, or purpose I should say, is to make viewers cognizant of how connected and the same we all are, no matter where we are from or what language we speak. The film brings the spotlight, although of the same world we all are, still how so distant we are from each other. It eschews the glamorization of war, violence and drug trafficking. Instead, its message is about dreams, and the unfortunate circumstances that some are stuck in, and attempting to crawl out to simply gain a sense of calm; a sense of peace. Like any good film, Manos Sucias is about hope.
Distributed by The Film Collaborative, a non-profit independent film distribution, Manos Sucias opens in New York on April 3, 2015, and in Los Angeles on April 10, 2015 before expanding into other markets, including Detroit, Houston, Santa Ana and Miami.