Film sinks in a storm-tossed ocean of melodrama.

A worthy message and attractive shots of the lush Colombian landscape aren’t enough to save “Portraits in a Sea of Lies” from sinking in a storm-tossed ocean of melodrama. Multihyphenate Carlos Gaviria wants to alert auds to the suffering of a nation where 10% of the population is displaced through violence, but his nicely titled tale of a traumatized young woman returning to her destroyed home is hamstrung by histrionics and weak editing. Fests with Latin American sidebars are the most likely takers.

The character Battling Burrows in “Broken Blossoms” is more subtle than Nepomuceno (Edgardo Roman), the violent, alcoholic grandfather of Marina (Paola Baldion Fischer), who’s repressed memories of her family’s massacre and hasn’t been quite right since. When Nepomuceno is killed in a landslide, Marina is taken under wing by wheeler-dealer cousin Jairo (Julian Roman, the sole thesp to make an impression), who brings her back to the ruined homestead to reclaim the land. The road trip, recalling similar journeys in Westerns, reps the pic’s best section, showcasing a scarred land controlled by military overseers and brigands. Gaviria’s superior docu roots are revealed in strong ethnographic sequences.

Portraits in a Sea of Lies

Colombia

Production

A Producciones Erwin Goggel production. (International sales: Producciones Erwin Goggel, Bogota.) Produced by Goggel. Executive producer, Paola Vasquez. Directed, written, edited by Carlos Gaviria.

Crew

Camera (color, Super 16-to-35mm), Edgar Gil; music, Leonardo Gomez, Diana Hernandez "Maria Mulata"; production designer, Claudia Fischer; costume designers, Carolina Martinez, Edgar Martinez. Reviewed at Berlin Film Festival (Generation 14plus), Feb. 18, 2010. Original title: Retratos en un mar de mentiras. Running time: 90 MIN.

With

Paola Baldion Fischer, Julian Roman, Edgardo Roman, Valeria Fuentes, Ana Maria Arango, Indhira Serrano, Carolina Lizarazo, Ramses Ramos, Harold Cordoba, Esmeralda Pinzon, Juan Carlos Arango.

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