“Mother Jungle, a demon has set foot in your entrails”
Hidden jewels on Netflix do exist, but coming upon a pure emerald stone, a film so green and lush that almost makes you smell and touch the trees, is as precious as the Amazon itself. Green Frontier (Spanish: Frontera Verde, 2019) is a limited series created by Diego Ramírez Schrempp, Mauricio Leiva-Cock, and Jenny Ceballos, shot entirely on location, in the southernmost city of Leticia in Colombia.
Bogotá-based detective Helena (Juana del Río) is sent to investigate the murder of four missionary women, initially blamed on uncontacted natives living in the deepest parts of the jungle. Solid in her ways and authority, and with the help of Reynaldo (Nelson Camayo), Helena discovers the heartless body of a fifth woman, who is more than just an indigenous victim of brutal rituals.
Without the help of the police, Helena begins piecing a puzzle connected to her own origins together. The supernatural weaves its way into the narrative, shedding light on the strange customs of the indigenous tribes, a missionary cult, illegal loggers, and the White Demon threatening the very existence of the Manigua’s (Maternal and Divine Jungle) heart.
What starts off as a murder case evolves into a transcending journey from the microcosm of the self, to the macrocosm of the universe. The non-linear narrative and the supernatural elements might seem unrelated at first, but soon they will have you fully immersed in the story of serene Yua (Miguel Dionisio Ramos) and absolutely captivating Ushe (Ángela Cano).
The series stays true to elements of magic realism, common in South American storytelling. And yet, regrettably, it somehow veers off the original idea of a whodunnit mystery and loses some of its suspenseful momentum after episode 5.
Nonetheless, the characters are well-developed and everything seems to be connected. Definitely a slow-burn, this series demands attention and binge-watching with its one-of-a-kind cinematography. The natural sound design and lightwork will make you reach out for the AC control right from the start, while the native languages, Tikuna and Huitoto, add to the essence of entering a mystical world.
With Ciro Guerra (Embrace of the Seprent, 2015), Jacques Toulemonde Vidal and Laura Mora Ortega at the wheel of direction, the eight 40-or-so-minute-long episodes will take you on a journey into a world beyond our everyday knowledge and reach, as well as into the shamanic truths of tribes ignored and defiled by white barbarity.
Being the first Netflix original from Colombia, the series was uncannily released a few days before the catastrophic wildfires devoured thousands of hectares of rainforest last summer. It remains pointedly relevant though, as the ongoing ecological degradation of the Amazon surged during the pandemic standstill, and Bolsonaro’s “cultural” deforestation politics.