SIFF Review: ‘Killing Jesus’


In a North American movie a title like Killing Jesús would most likely lead us to assume it to be an anti-Christianity film or something of that sort.  But in Spanish-speaking countries, Jesús is a common boy’s name—and in this case, he is a grown man, a Colombian sicario or assassin-for-hire, in the violence-besieged city of Medellín.

We begin this film with Loaiza-Paula, a university photography student who is also an impassioned student activist.  With her boisterous and bold personality, she is popular among fellow students and as she rides home with her political science professor father, we glimpse the loving and respectful relationship they share.  All this changes in a flash of gunfire and a sicario’s bullet.  Her father lies dead at her feet, and Loaiza-Paula’s world disintegrates.  She is transformed into a silent, moody, and very angry young woman who realizes the police cannot or will not be able to bring her father’s killer to justice.  She undertakes the mission to avenge her father’s death.

Tensions rise as she searches for the sicario through the rough and dangerous streets of Medellín.  The tension rises another notch when she finds him.  What will she do?  Will she become a killer as well?

In another SIFF 2018 film, Marlina the Murderer in Four Acts, the men in the film are one-dimensional–in other words, just plain bad.  In Killing Jesús, the sicarios are also “bad men,” but with the artful skill of director Laura Mora Ortega, and the strong performances of the two main characters Loaiza-Paula, played by Natasha Jaramillo, and Jesús, played by Giovanny Rodrigues, we see Jesús, in particular, transform into a multi-dimensional character.  Ultimately what appears at first glance to be a film about revenge metamorphizes into a film about finding humanity in the most inhuman of environments.

This is a very professional film photographically, well-edited and with a compelling script.  Except for a brief segment in the center of the film, it is taut with suspense.  Its ultimate gift is not as a thriller, but as a film that touches the heart when you least expect it.  I really enjoyed and appreciated the skill with which this film was constructed.  This film moved me.

This movie was reviewed as part of coverage for the 2018 Seattle International Film Festival (SIFF).

By Karen Samdahl
Related categories: Movie Reviews, SIFF