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Franco García Becerra Raíz (Through Rocks and Clouds) Review


Raíz (Through Rocks and Clouds) | 2024 Berlin Intl. Film Festival Review

Raíz (Through Rocks and Clouds) | 2024 Berlin Intl. Film Festival Review

A Walk in the Clouds: Becerra Mines Escapism and Innocence in Quiet Drama

Franco García Becerra Raíz (Through Rocks and Clouds) Review A dwindling group of alpaca herders find themselves on the verge of violent displacement in Franco Garcia Becerra’s sophomore film Through the Rocks and Clouds. In essence, it’s a tale as old as time, and universal to any period or place. As is the filmmaker’s choice to frame the narrative through the eyes of a child, more or less oblivious to the anxiety and despair of his bewildered parents. The original Spanish language title, Raiz, which translates to ‘root,’ has more thematic resonance than the poetic but rather vague ambiguity of the English language approach, which seems to further soften the blow of a dark package focusing on the small bits of peripheral hope thanks to the distraction of the Peruvian national football team on the verge of competing in the World Cup. Becerra makes excellent use of local color in this Andes set drama, which is bolstered by the narrative’s resolute inability to provide any real comfort in its conclusion.

Feliciano (Alberth Merma) is like any preoccupied eight-year-old, though his most meaningful socialization is shared with his favorite alpaca, Ronaldo. Along with his aging dog, Rambo, these two creatures absorb the brunt of the young boy’s enthusiasm for football, currently obsessed with the possibility of Peru’s seemingly impending inclusion in the most notable football tournament in the world. But there’s trouble afoot at home thanks to a mining company attempting to force Feliciano’s family and their neighbors out of their homes despite the community’s desire to stay. The writing is already on the wall, it would seem, with their local lake polluted, and acts of violence, including the murder of their animals, generating terror. When Ronaldo and Rambo suddenly disappear, Feliciano and his sympathetic parents attempt to search for the missing animals, though the adults are convinced they’re likely dead. However, Feliciano refuses to give up hope, wandering off on his own while the adults instead plot to organize against the mine.

There’s much of Through the Rocks and Clouds which feels quite familiar to a number of films and television series dealing with similar subtexts. The latest season of True Detective is predicated on the environmentally damaging havoc of a mine in a remote Alaskan town, while Ryusuke Hamaguchi’s Evil Does Not Exist (2023) has similar sequences of a parent and their child facing the onslaught of a corporation disastrously interrupting the rhythm of a rural community.

Becerra touches on some sweet moments, such as Feliciano giving Ronaldo a hairstyle fashioned after his favorite football player, Christian Cueva, but it’s an altogether muted affair for those expecting any poignant satisfaction. Much like his 2018 debut Southern Winds, Becerra seems most interested in examining familial relationships informed and connected to isolated environments which may define their realities but perhaps offer meaning or salvation as well.

Reviewed on February 19th at the 2024 Berlin International Film Festival – Generation Kplus section. 83 mins.


Los Angeles based Nicholas Bell is's Chief Film Critic and covers film festivals such as Sundance, Berlin, Cannes and TIFF. He is part of the critic groups on Rotten Tomatoes, The Los Angeles Film Critics Association (LAFCA), the Online Film Critics Society (OFCS) and GALECA. His top 3 for 2021: France (Bruno Dumont), Passing (Rebecca Hall) and Nightmare Alley (Guillermo Del Toro). He was a jury member at the 2019 Cleveland International Film Festival.

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