‘Hummingbirds’ Review: Two Friends’ Summer Along the Border

Filmed in the summer of 2019, the lyrical documentary “Hummingbirds” is a portrait of two friends, Silvia Del Carmen Castaños and Estefanía (Beba) Contreras, and their lives in Laredo, Texas, across the border from Mexico. When they hang out near the Rio Grande, Beba says, “I’ve never been this close to the river except when I crossed.” She jokes that they’re breathing air from another country.

But “Hummingbirds” isn’t a social-issue documentary, at least not directly. First and foremost, it is interested in simply capturing Silvia and Beba’s summer vibe, as they stargaze, watch fireworks, sing together (Beba is a songwriter) and shop at the dollar store. The emphasis on chilling out might not sound surprising, given that the two of them are the movie’s directors as well as its subjects. (Silvia was 18 and Beba 21 when shooting began.) Wouldn’t they be prone to finding their every activity fascinating?

Except that “Hummingbirds” is pretty tight filmmaking at less than 80 minutes, and the laid-back presentation makes the political commentary register strongly from the periphery. The friends’ conversations allude to struggles with poverty, deportation risk (Beba is awaiting news on a visa) and unplanned pregnancies, in addition to their complicated family lives. The closest thing to a major incident involves their defacing of a yard sign, which they edit to change “Pray to end abortion” to “Pray 4 legal abortion.” Yet in a way, the movie is all incident. The closing credits list four co-directors, which explains how Silvia and Beba could film themselves so fluidly.

Not rated. In English and Spanish, with subtitles. Running time: 1 hour 18 minutes. In theaters.

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