Two Dreamers on a tree Branch
Hongos means mushrooms. A discrete but rapidly growing, diverse and adaptable organism which plays its part in the cycle of nature and is able to break structures much bigger than itself. That’s what the two young protagonists of Oscar Ruiz Navia’s film are: irresistible parasites, who manage to thrive in a decomposing environment, namely the southwestern Colombian city of Cali, where dark stories are told by grandmothers who saw more horrors than their soft eyes would suggest.
Calvin and Ras are two teenage boys prone to skipping school and covering street walls with graffiti instead. They are harmless, and Calvin may even be the sweetest grandson ever to tread this Earth, yet somehow they are considered disturbing elements by society. Ras’s well-meaning mother sees only demonic possession as a satisfying explanation of her son’s hopeless disobedience, and resorts to catechism and even exorcism to “fix” him. The boys keep opposing a resilient face to such abuses though, their gaze directed elsewhere. Tagging a simple message of solidarity to a cause defended halfway around the globe is an achievement that keeps them going.
Reversely, people who blabber the most about rebellion against oppression, such as Calvin’s father, might be the least effective. A former opera singer who feigns occupation, his way of redoing the world limits itself to playing cards with fellow retirees, blatantly ignoring his son’s request for support.
Images are stronger than empty words, and a superb vision stays with us after the film ends: a shot of the two friends camouflaged in a tree’s foliage, followed by our discovery of their painting of that same tree on a wall. All harmonious softness and full realization of intentions, however modest, it is the delightful representation of a quiet revolution.
Oscar Ruiz Navia
When most people hear the title Los Hongos (mushrooms) think immediately of psychodelia. But the title’s metaphor refers to mushrooms in a literal sense: living beings that appear in a context of tremendous rotting. Los Hongos is life that arises out of death, where the spirit of this film – life – resides.