Los Reyes del Mundo (International Title: The Kings of the World ), is a dense and heartbreaking portray of marginality and exclusion within the Latin American context, which can easily be extrapolated to any place in the world, but what is The Kings of the World about? 5 homeless boys from the streets of Medellin see a brighter future when one of them receives a letter stating that his property rights to a piece of land in a rural sector of Colombia have been restored. However as the film progresses it becomes clear that this dream could well turn into a nightmare, or even not be happening at all.
Now, if you really want to understand the end of the movie, if you want to know if the boys are alive or not, don’t worry, because now and without further ado, we we’ll take a closer look into The Kings of the World – specially the ending. Let’s start now!
1 ^ Who are the main characters in the film The Kings of the World?
The 5 boys who leave Medellín (Colombia) heading to Nechí to claim ownership of a piece of land are: Brayan (Carlos Andrés Castañeda), whom his friends call Rá (yes, like the Egyptian God); Winny (Brahian Estiven Acevedo), the youngest of the group who has great loyalty to Rá; Sere (Davinson Andrés Florez), also very close to Rá, although we rarely hear him speak. Nano (Cristian David Campaña), a young Afro-Colombian who is under the protection of Rá. And finally Culebro (Cristian Camilo David Mora), who is the least attached to the group, and therefore the most likely to betray them. The 5 guys in the lead of the movie are natural actors, not professional actors.
2 ^ What is the historical context of the film?
Since 1995, getting so much worse in 1998, Colombia suffered one of the most serious waves of violence in its entire history. The guerrillas armed and strengthened themselves using the peace processes and guarantees offered by the governments of Ernesto Samper and Andrés Pastrana as an excuse, and in order to cover more territory they expelled hundreds of thousands of peasants from their lands. The owners of extensions of land, and in general a part of the private sector grouped together and armed so-called self-defense groups, in response to the total lack of response from the State to the guerrilla takeover of the country. Of course, a war without norms or rules, where the purpose is to make the other disappear, led to a confrontation that left thousands dead, and civilians in the middle of the war,
Of course, many took advantage of the fact that thousands of acres of land were open to claim ownership. In the context of the film Gilma, Rá’s grandmother, left her land in the Nechí – Colombian Bajo Cauca – fleeing from the war and arrived in Medellín, with her grandson. Like many of those displaced by this conflict, Gilma and her grandson went from being peasants to joining the shantytowns of the large Colombian cities.
Now, in 2012, the Land Restitution Unit came into operation, a public entity that assessed the claims of the owners of these lands abandoned by the war exodus and presented the request before the courts of justice to repeal titles obtained fraudulently and deliver the lands to their rightful owners. Mrs. Gilma claimed her land in Nechí, but died before the court decision. Therefore her grandson Brayan (Rá) is the only one who can claim the land. And that’s why he prepares to travel with his 4 friends. That is the journey.
From Medellín to Nechí there are 346 kilometers (215 miles) of narrow road, which even by car can take between 8 and 15 hours, depending on traffic. The path basically consists of going up to the top of the western mountain range, and then going down to the valley of the Cauca river in Nechí. This area is widely known in Colombia for being a territory of permanent social disputes and criminal acts that almost always go unpunished.
The area of Bajo Cauca Antioqueño, where Nechí is located, was a zone of wide control of the self-defense groups, which are known colloquially as paramilitares.
3 ^ Why couldn’t Rá get his land?
Because even land restitution processes can be appealed to a higher court, if any claimant feels that their rights have been violated. In fact, in Colombia is not uncommon that people who have sold their lands within all legal terms, and after a few years, they appear claiming the land that they themselves sold under no pressure. And furthermore, lawyers have been known to build artificial communities, to fabricate a fictitious narrative and thus claim extensive land holdings, under shared testimony. For this reason, even when the Land Restitution Unit has handed over land to a citizen, it may be the case that there are lawsuits over these rulings.
In Rá’s case, her grandmother’s land was returned to her, but the ruling was challenged by another claimant, who appealed to a higher court for a new ruling.
4 ^ Are the boys at the end alive or are they dead?
Short answer : Everyone is dead in the end. And now in the long answer we explain why.
Long answer : 1) Nano was killed by the guys who kidnapped them at one of the stops on the road, and in fact the scene where we see Nano, along with other people walking through the jungle, is a representation of all the people who have been murdered in that area of the country, which is a great many. 2) Culebro, who had already betrayed the boys, stealing their food, tried to steal the land papers from Rá, and in the confrontation suffered a wound with his own knife, which caused his death.
Now as for Rá, Winny and Sera, the three of them stole their belongings and money from some boys who were having a party near a circus, and then they went to spend the money in a bar, where everyone in town found out. There, in that scene, where Sera and Rá appear on the pavement, we hear some sounds, but we don’t see anything. There, at the hands of the villagers, at least Sera and Rá died. From then on all we see seems to be a supernatural vision of the souls of the dead boys (probably only Rá), to reach the peace they did not find in life.
Two facts support this theory: in the first place, the elderly who give him the information on the ground, are in a house where they cannot actually be living since it is abandoned. They are ghosts. And then, on the ground, a series of children appear, the same ones we have seen in other visions, as well as Nano and Culebro. The subject who is throwing them out is another soul in pain, who does not let the children he murdered rest. In addition, there it is clear that the subject defends the lands of his employer, but clearly the mine is a different enterprise. In the end, in the confrontation between the children and the subject, they all manage to get out of the land that binds them by the desire to possess it, which exceeds death, and finally finds the way, just as the old man said.
They say that water is the blood of the world, now it rains and with its tears, it cleans the earth. And with my blood I clean the earth. The flow that has formed floods this valley, taking with it the memory of my grandparents, theirs, theirs, ours, and the anxious sea awaits. The anxious sea awaits me. There is no longer any port.
The final scene where we see the five boys on a kind of island, in the flow of the river, has taken them with their death and with it their memory. There is no longer any port, because nobody will remember them.
5 ^ What does the horse that Rá sees mean?
The horse is simply the supernatural guide of the path that Rá must travel to reach the sea, to finish his stage on earth and finally rest in peace. The film itself is perhaps how Rá sees his time in the world and how his last days led to his death and he was never able to achieve the dream of recovering his land, but at least he was able to do his best to be with his friends. Now, the Horse wants Rá to rest in peace, but his earthly desire binds him to earthly existence, to seek revenge against the people who killed him, and to find his grandmother’s land. But he finally manages to overcome those desires and transcend, although no one on earth remembers it.
6 ^ What is the message of the film?
The film is a strong criticism of the marginalization of certain segments of the population in Colombia, and yet within its criticism it manages to see that the victimization of individuals and their deep self-pity may weigh more heavily on them than the infractions and crimes of the past. Rá is very explicit in saying that he wants to recover the land to «fight for what’s his».
It is very frequent in Colombia, especially in these segments of the population, to look for external culprits to their economic situation, their social situation, or the frustrations they have above them, however, very few take a step forward to overcome their problems and get ahead. In Colombia, minors can seek to remain in the custody of the State, which guarantees their basic education, and even higher education in some cases. However, guys like the ones in the movie are not looking to improve their quality of life, have a job, a place to live, or food, but are simply looking for a way to have more money to reign on the street, which is the only thing they need or even know.
The sequence with the mountain prostitutes confirms this. Winny, who is the youngest, tells them that they could stay there, perhaps working and have food and shelter, however, they cannot conceive that they have to work to get their things. Rá and her friends see the land as a lottery prize to which they are entitled, but if indeed Rá had obtained the land, he had not the remotest idea of how to make it productive, he would end up selling it and return to Medellín to continue taking drugs, fighting and when the money finally ran out, he would go back to where he started. That is the sad story of hundreds of people who have had their land reintegrated and end up selling it at any price, to buy a motorcycle and hallucinogenic drugs, without worrying about anything else.
If there is any message in this film, it is that magical solutions do not exist, a piece of paper, whether it is from a lottery, or from a land, is not going to solve your life, if you have not first structured your mind, to stop feeling self-pity and keep going strong. That is the only way that your life is not simply a flow towards the sea of oblivion, where no one ever thinks of you again.
Questions? Annotations? More doubts? The comments section is open just below this post so feel free to use it. See you in the next installment of Ending Explained here at El Sabanero X.