'Los Hongos' is filmmaker's ode to culture of graffiti vandals with utopic dreams

Miami International Film Festival highlights emerging talent


MIAMI – This film represents the rebellious spirit of Miami's Wynwood low brow art world, but it showcases the edge of the politically conscious South American graffiti writers who view vandalism as part of a fight for freedom of expression.

The film titled "Los Hongos," which means "The Mushrooms or Fungi," is an allegory to a life form that can grow underground and on decaying wood or dying tree roots. Director Oscar Ruiz Navia's mushrooms are two young graffiti activists. 

Despite their socioeconomic differences, partners in crime Ras and Calvin (Jovan Alexis Marquinez and Calvin Buenaventura) have an unbreakable bond that focuses on the idea of fighting oppression. Internet access opens a window to the brutal oppression of Arab Spring activists.

Navia, of Contravia Films, uses color and music to portray characters he describes as "skate boarding boys who are part of an incubating punk-rock art movement" in Cali, Colombia. The boys are also shown smoking marijuana, as they are exposed to an environment plagued by crime and corruption.


Language: Spanish with English subtitles

Country: France, Germany, Argentina and Colombia

Running time:  103 minutes

Showtimes: 6:30 p.m., March 12, Regal South Beach Cinemas, 1100 Lincoln Rd., in Miami Beach. 4 p.m., March 14, O Cinema, 500 71 St., Miami Beach.

Film makers:  Oscar Ruiz Navia, Ruiz Navia, Cesar Augusto Acevedo, Sofia Oggioni Hatty, Felipe Guerrero, Sebastian Escofet, Daniela Shneider, Alejandro Franco, Ana Maria Acosta, Leandro de Loredo, Cesar Salazar and Frederic Thery.

Ras is black, poor and works in construction to help his religious single mom Maria, who struggles with their displacement due to the armed conflict in Colombia. Calvin is white and comes from a middle class family. He spends most of his time with his dying grandmother to avoid his divorced parents.

The two roam aimlessly through the city, like someone who wants to get lost and not return," Navia said in Spanish. "Along the way, as two mushrooms, they pollute the environment of immense freedom."

As they tried to show their support, they translated Egyptian protesters' chant to "We Will Never be Silent Again" and move to paint a massive graffiti piece in their honor.

Navia's second feature film won the Special Jury Prize in the Filmmakers of the Present at the Locarno Film Festival and the Hubert Bals Fund Lions Film Award at Rotterdam. It has was shown in the Festival Internacional de Cinema de Tarragona and the Toronto Film Festival .