Director/ Simón Uribe
Watched on Vimeo
Suspension is a road movie about an actual road, the notorious “Springboard of Death” in the Columbian Amazon. It’s a long and perpetually winding one-lane asphalt and dirt track connecting a midsize town to villages in the jungle mountains, and it is prone to landslides, accidents, and gridlock. Despite its size and length, delivery trucks, buses and passenger cars depend on it day in and day out. The road has been around since 1944, and it seems like the government has been talking about replacing it for just as long. A few years ago, crews began work on a sleek new modern highway, advertising it with a high-tech computer model that townspeople could watch as if contemplating a dream. It’s a dream that apparently will never be fulfilled.
It’s difficult to understand what exactly tempted director Simón Uribe to make a documentary about this out-of-the-way engineering project. He spends some time with the folks who live in the area, all of whom lament that they’ll never see the road completed in their lifetime, and none of whom make much of an impression.
There is a short sequence of a modern expanse being built across a gorge, which gives us an idea of the scope and difficulty of the project. But when a rainstorm sends the construction crew under cover, it also seems to signal the end of the road-building when the funding runs out. The half-finished bridge then becomes a sightseeing destination and a playground for wheelie-popping motorcyclists.
A natural disaster in the film’s final few minutes suggests that government negligence and financial mismanagement are getting people killed. But there is virtually no outrage, no investigations, no muckraking journalism, no protests, and, frankly, very little in the way of emotional investment in the reaction of the residents who need the new road the most.
The movie’s most appealing feature is, for what it’s worth, a glimpse into a part of the world most of us will never visit. The cinematography captures the weather and the setting with clarity, and there is a sense that we are witnessing yet another story of the poor and the disenfranchised completely powerless to jumpstart a stalled bureaucracy. But the takeaway from this film is its frustrating banality. It may be a road movie, but it has nowhere to go.