Peering into the Strange and Beguiling Life of Porfirio


Improbable but true, in 2005 a paraplegic Colombian man named Porfirio Ramírez hijacked a plane bound for Bogota using two grenades concealed inside his adult diaper. His motive: to force the government into settling a long-pending compensation claim related to the 1991 police shooting that left him paralyzed. The result: eight years of house arrest. One of the highlights of the 2011 Cannes Film Festival, director Alejandro Landes’s Porfirio recounts Ramírez’s strange tale not as documentary but as thinly fictionalized docudrama, with the charismatic Ramírez (who resembles a slightly paunchier Cheech Marin) playing himself, alongside his real-life son (Jarlinsson Ramírez Reinoso) and girlfriend (Yor Jasbleidy Santos Torres). To a large extent, the movie can be deemed a procedural, showing us how its proud, endlessly resourceful protagonist goes about his daily life—how he loads himself in and out of his wheelchair, how he negotiates the toilet, and yes, even how he has sex. All of it is captured by Landes and the great Greek cameraman Thimios Bakatakis (Dogtooth, Attenberg) in striking widescreen tableaux that sometimes verge on the abstract. But Landes’s tone is never salacious or exploitative, nor for that matter pandering or sentimental. This is a sui generis work—warm, sporadically funny, deeply human, and altogether beguiling.