True/False 2023 Review: Silvia Del Carmen Castaños & Estefanía “Beba” Contreras’ “Hummingbirds” Sets the Mind Aflutter

There are places that Silvia Del Carmen Castaños and Estefania “Beba” Contreras shouldn’t be in Laredo, Texas where abandoned homes and buildings are boarded up and crossing the Rio Grande into Mexico would be a point of no return when the latter has yet to gain their citizenship. However, it feels in “Hummingbirds” that no place is off-limits when the two never let a fence get in the way of having a good time and there is nothing they keep from one another, appearing inseparable when there is nothing much to do but to entertain themselves.

They let others in on the fun in the film they are credited with co-directing (with an additional set of co-directors in Jillian Schlesinger and Miguel Drake-McLaughlin), a natural extension of the art they create to pass the time already, with Beba often found tooling around on her piano to underscore Silvia’s poetry. Seemingly set during an endless, lazy summer after Silvia graduates high school, the two spend nights staring up at the sky, musing about the future, if not sneaking onto private property and getting their kicks with childish pranks. There still is much the duo can discover about their community, with Beba shocked to learn that the local Wal-Mart accepts pesos, and the film echoes their capacity to still be surprised since their idle time stems in part from the fact that Beba’s citizenship status remains in limbo, preventing her from working, leading to an unorthodox, punk rock portrait of the immigrant experience where the two appear no different than any other disaffected American teen, sporting Thrasher and “Night of the Living Dead” tees as they stave off boredom.

It would seem at first that their entire world is each other, a fact that editors Schlesinger and Isidore Bethel use to shrewd effect when a viewer’s growing awareness of Silvia and Beba’s respective families and their pasts make their present appear a little less carefree. As Silvia confides, “I never felt I could really be a child, taking care of you guys” when talking to a younger sister that’s been kept off-screen and unbeknownst in the prior 45 minutes, and both are revealed to be politically engaged, their idealism perhaps initially appearing like any other of the playful fantasies they engage in as they deface pro-life yard signs and protest cruel border detention policies on the side of the road yet the innocence that drives it all snaps into focus as what they should be holding onto most.

Without weighing the film down, “Hummingbirds” suggests that the best friends are experiencing a delayed burst of adolescence upon being old enough where independence could finally be a real option, but circumstance still hems them in and feels like something to rebel against. A refusal to conform extends to the film’s structure which feels gently elusive, allowing one to experience Silvia and Beba’s reverie without any imposed narrative beats and while Silvia and Beba craft their own narrative as filmmakers, they let life take its course, yielding a refreshing coming-of-age story in which it becomes far less important what they think their future looks like than how they’re seen as an essential part of the future.

“Hummingbirds” does not yet have U.S. distribution.

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