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.