Buladó (2020 | Netherlands | 88 mins | Eché Janga)
Kenza (Tiara Richards) is a headstrong, whip-smart young girl living on the island of Curaçao where, like any indigenous peoples lorded over by a colonial nation, is pulled in two directions. Her father, Ouira (Everon Jackson Hooi), wants to fit into the Dutch culture that has taken over the island, but her grandfather Weljo (Felix de Rooy) is steadfastly holding to their tribal traditions. Kenza feels pulled toward the mysticism and wonder of those traditions, especially the call of the dead after losing her mother at a very early age. Loss of land and culture is a constant undercurrent throughout the film, there’s a growing feeling of heartbreak in all three generations and in the end they find each other again through the love of family.
Director Janga is a Netherlands-born descendant of Curaçao and wanted to tell stories of his people, his ancestors, that might otherwise be lost. The colonization by the Dutch of the people on this island is not a well-known fact, and even from those who know it, there is no chorus of concern to help the indigenous come back to their traditions and lands. I think this is his attempt to break the silence, to shine a spotlight on what has happened there; attempt to give back the legends and history of the people that once thrived there.
As with many indigenous stories, this one has a current of loss and tragedy. Not just because the main character lost her mother as a baby, but the larger loss of culture that is shut up in a museum rather than practiced by its people… what’s left of them. Weljo added most of the old world magic and mystery to this storyline and Kenza was drawn to him wanting to discover it, but her father blocked her path at nearly every turn. Not out of anger or disdain, but a concern for her future and how she’ll fit in to the society they are forced to live within. White men have taken over and he’s surrendered to it rather than fight it. There were a couple times where the storyline veered a bit and I wasn’t sure where it was going, but eventually brought us back to a familiar road.
The fiery and tenacious spirit in Kenza refuses to fall in line and as a viewer you wish things get easier for her… but colonized people, as we all know, never have an easy road to walk. It’s a complex story that is both narrow and broad: Kenza’s grief and turmoil as a young girl turning into a woman without a mother and the grander loss of tradition and culture all mix to create a seemingly overwhelming struggle for someone so young. I found myself invested in the hope and conflict in every character and so will you.