(COLOMBIAN) A Caracol TV/FOCINE/Crear TV/Prods. Fotograma/EMME production. Produced, directed by Sergio Cabrera. Executive producer, Salvatore Basile, Sandro Silvestri. Screenplay, Humberto Dorado, based on a script by Cabrera, Ramon Jimeno. Camera (color), Carlos Congote; editor, Manuel Navia, Nicholas Wenworth; music, German Arrieta. Reviewed at Cartagena Film Festival, Colombia, March 9, 1994. (Also in Sundance Film Festival.) Running time: 116 MIN.
With: Frank Ramirez, Humberto Dorado, Florina Lemaitre, Gustavo Angarita, Vicky Hernandez, Edgardo Roman, Fausto Cabrera, Salvatore Basile, Victor Mallarino.
This second feature by Sergio Cabrera is rife with domestic concerns, including violence, bureaucracy and misuse of power, balanced by a large cast of quirky characters who band together in their fight for justice. The film is Colombia’s largest national hit, having drawn almost double the attendance of “Jurassic Park.”
An ensemble comedy, “The Snail’s Strategy” takes pokes at official corruption in Colombia, and very few people are spared — not politicians, the police, lawyers, judges or the rich.
At the beginning of the century, large mansions in the center of Bogota were abandoned by the wealthy as the city grew northward. These buildings were occupied by squatters, and law stipulates that, after being unclaimed for a determined period, ownership passes into the hands of the residents.
Told in flashback, pic relates the case of the Olive house, a rambling complex of 48 rooms popularly known as “The Coop.” When the former owner tries to reclaim the building, the tenants resist.
A lawyer manages to delay eviction while an old theatrical stage manager comes up with a strategy: Using a series of pulleys and levers, the tenants dismantle the building piece by piece until only the facade remains.
As the many residents interact to carry out their strategy, their individual idiosyncrasies are laid bare. On the other side are the villains, who manipulate the law, sometimes violently, for their own ends. Cabrera has a good feeling for directing actors and manages to infuse this complex microcosm of Colombian society with dramatic life.