The darkest moment of the night precedes the sunrise. This is an astronomical truth, but it also applies to processes and social violence. The problem is you don’t know how long you will have to wait until the light comes or how much darker it can get – and it can be easy to lose hope in your wandering. Finding our limit in traveling through the darkness is the basic question explored in La Jauría (The Pack), the Colombian and French coproduction directed by Andrés Ramírez Pulido that won the Grand Prize of the Critics’ Week at the 75th Cannes Film Festival.
La Jauría tells the story of Eliú and El Mono, two teenagers who one night get drunk and high and decide to go looking for Eliú’s abusive father to kill him. However, that night they get confused and end up killing another man that happened to be in the wrong place at the wrong time. We see Eliú and El Mono hide his body in the jungle.
And then, the next thing we know, Eliú is in an experimental rehabilitation center, half eaten by the jungle, where he has to live with other teenagers (including, eventually El Mono) paying time for robbery and murder and trying to get clean from alcohol and drug abuse. Together, they live in poor sanitary conditions, with barely any furniture and sometimes without a roof. They also have to do all kinds of activities ranging from breathing techniques to forced labor.
In this rehabilitation center, Eliú and El Mono meet Álvaro, who perhaps is the only person that believes a different future is possible for the boys there. Eliú seems to be curious about that possibility. All the other boys, including El Mono, have lost hope and just live one day at a time, daydreaming about getting drunk and high again as a means to escape the darkness within them.
As the story evolves, this darkness becomes almost a presence devouring everyone and everything. So much so that I wondered how much more horrid things could become, how far into the pain and lack of hope our protagonists could travel until, eventually, there may be a beam of light.
La Jauría is a disturbing and interesting movie, particularly with its Colombian context. Here, the topic of violence caused by drug trafficking and armed conflict has been profusely explored through films and series, but not so much from an intimate perspective. Which are the wounds that help violence reproduce generation after generation? Part of the answer, La Jauría ventures, lies in unresolved father issues that get transmitted when kids grow up and only can give what they received: pain, abandonment, violence, hopelessness, and a relentless will to go on no matter what.
The movie is striking because of its approach, but also because of its meticulous construction of the scenery, the photography, and a very strong selection of natural actors. Besides illustrating how father issues contribute to the violence in Colombia, La Jauría doesn’t offer any answers. It is not a movie that will satisfy you. Instead, it will leave you in silence, thinking or just observing, so you may find the answer inside yourself of how long you could hold on while you wait for the light to come back again.