A Vanishing Fog Image

SXSW FILM FESTIVAL 2022 REVIEW! Columbian auteur Augusto Sandino’s poetic A Vanishing Fog is the most beautiful vision of doom I have seen. It is the first motion picture shot in Sumapaz Páramo of Columbia and might be the last, as the entire area is majorly endangered.

In the alpine tundra of Sumapaz Páramo, F (Sebastian Pii) is watching his way of life disintegrate. The lush foliage of the high-altitude area, the largest in the world of its type, is being destroyed by military actions and strip mining. F’s father, Colombo (Mario de Jesus Viana), is barely functional as his mind is nearly gone, meaning F must take care of him. So, the young man tends to the herd while running and hiding from the constant bombings, and feeds his dad at mealtime. He views himself as one of the last guardians of the land, but there is no hope as all miracles are seemingly over. F sees his only chance at survival as going to live on another planet, so he is learning English, the language of travelers.

Sandino rescues every inch of the landscape with his camera, preserving some absolutely stunning vistas. Shot after shot immerses the viewer into what looks like a mid-century pulp vision of the planet Venus. Color-filled otherworldly plants reach out of the mountain mists in what is apparently one of the quickest evolving areas in the world. Sandino juxtaposes this splendor with explosions and sides of mountains ripped off by mining. The destruction of the land is symbolically linked with the degradation of Columbo’s mind. F knows his father is trying to leave this plane, which is visualized by the striking image of an escalator up into the sky.

F sees his only chance at survival as going to live on another planet…”

The location alone is a worthy subject, but F’s plight completes the portrait. Pii is a non-professional actor, with A Vanishing Fog being his only credit to date. But, he brings an intensity to what is probably going to be the performance of his lifetime. Rarely have I seen an actor so totally commit to a nuanced and grueling performance while having almost no spoken lines.

A Vanishing Fog has amazing sequences of strange artistry that bring things onto a David Lynch level. This applies to both the surreal imagery and the theme of fleeing reality in the face of the unfaceable. As such, this drama is firmly in the arthouse category, bordering on experimental. However, if you squint, you can see the blueprint for the future of the big tent poles. The story engages without dialogue in an alien world that is easy to follow but still mysterious. Imagine what that could do for a big-budget blockbuster in an international market. Furthermore, you escape all language barriers as characters speak little and in alien tongues when they do.

Visual storytelling allows a more abstract reaction to the actions instead of the stale stench of derivative expository dialogue. Several franchises already have the content to go in this direction, whether it be the sand people of Star Wars, Baraka from Mortal Kombat, or a Godzilla movie without the awful humans. A Vanishing Fog is a great example of the powers of non-verbal storytelling and how fresh it can seem. Writer-director Sandino has created a visionary work that beautifully keeps alive a disappearing world.

A Vanishing Fog screened at the 2022 SXSW Film Festival.

A Vanishing Fog (2022)

Directed and Written: Augusto Sandino

Starring: Sebastian Pii, Mario de Jesus Viana, Sandra Roses, etc.

Movie score: 9/10

A Vanishing Fog Image

"…the most beautiful vision of doom I have seen."

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