SXSW world premiere: ‘Days of the Whale’

David Antonino

A whale cannot swim in polluted water. This is one of the many pieces of symbolism seen throughout the film “Days of the Whale.” As the first feature film by director Catalina Arroyave, it has already won two screenplay awards and the FDC, Colombian film developing fund. The motion picture will have its world premiere at SXSW. Its first screening will be on March 10 at 7 p.m. at the Alamo Ritz. 

The film depicts two young graffiti artists, Cristina and Simon, portrayed by Laura Tobón and David Escallón, as they muster the courage to defy a criminal gang in their hometown of Medellín, Colombia. The couple decide to paint over a threat on a wall with a mural of a whale. After facing backlash, Cristina and Simon utilize the strength of youth against fear, violence and the risks of growing up. 

“Days of the Whale,” a true street-style approach to the traditional coming-of-age film style, utilizes graffiti to symbolize the characters’ feelings as well as
foreshadow future events in the film. This creative approach made it very easy to follow.

The soundtrack was artfully and intentionally chosen as well. Each song referenced to gangs and bullet holes and suggested leaving a place. Arroyave did a tremendous job focusing on every detail to have intention in the film’s overall delivery.

In regard to the acting, it was a well done collective performance without any individual standouts. The main actors did a good job in creating chemistry between the characters, a necessity to sell this idea of a couple courageously overcoming violence but their individual scenes were not as well developed. 

The biggest acting fluke of the film was the stepmother’s performance. Her performance was mainly irrelevant and stale. Every scene she was in took place in the house, and she was constantly being blown off by every character in the film to the point where it was comical. Her character’s entire purpose in the film was to illustrate the contrast between Cristina’s father and mother, and she didn’t even do that well.

The loss in storyline is further extrapolated with the audience never being introduced to how Cristina and Simon met in the first place or how they began doing graffiti.

Along with the character chemistry comes development, another highlight to the film. The protagonist started out as an ignorant and stubborn graffiti artist and evolved into a strong and fearless woman.

The cinematography was superb, so each frame of film looks very crisp. The film had surprisingly good lighting given the number of nighttime scenes. The lighting was well thought out, adding dark green and blue hues for night scenes with gangs, eliciting an eerie vibe for the gang.

While the film “Days of the Whale” exemplifies everything necessary for a successful film behind the scenes, the lack of background information and a seemingly pointless supporting actress in the film cost it a perfect rating.