Brothers Delio and Jacobo stand by as two Colombian military officers inspect their boat, desperately hoping their stash of cocaine submerged just below the water won’t be discovered. After a few tense minutes, the officers depart, leaving the brothers to await further instructions from the drug lords.
This is just one of several suspense-filled scenes in Manos Sucias (Dirty Hands), American filmmaker Josef Wladyka’s first feature-length production, which portrays the tension and grime of the narcotrafficking trade in Buenaventura, Colombia.
The heart of the film is the contrast Wladyka depicts between the “normal” lives of the young brothers, who love soccer and arcade games, and the darker business of cocaine smuggling. As the brothers sneak their cargo through impoverished towns, always one step ahead of the authorities, the film shows the toll the drug business has taken on Colombian youth. Delio and Jacobo may have “dirty hands,” but they are also victims of forces beyond their control—and the ending is tragically true-to-life.
The film, five years in the making, was subsidized through crowdfunding and grants, and premiered at the Cartagena Film Festival in March, earning Wladyka the award for Best New Narrative Director at the 2014 Tribeca Film Festival. According to the director, the plot was grounded in the grim reality of the Colombian drug trade. “In Buenaventura, unfortunately, there are a lot of kids who at a very young age […] are caught up in this cycle,” he explained. Manos Sucias was released in Colombian theaters on October 9. A U.S. distribution deal is still pending.
View a trailer from the film below.