We live in the most documented time in all of human history. Hundreds of thousands of pictures and videos are made every day documenting the ups, downs and in-between of people’s lives. Many times we take for granted or even forget the power those recorded events have. Well, there is a new documentary out that reminds us of the power of a picture. Bancoco is the story of Brad King and his journey to reconnect with the indigenous tribe that he stayed with twenty years ago. During his initial stay he photographed and video recorded many members of the tribe. Now he heads back to the Darien Gap of Panama in the hope of reconnecting with the tribe to share with them his collection of captured memories.
Bancoco is an amazingly heartfelt and moving documentary. Brad King keeps the story focused on the group of people he fell in love with. He shares a little of himself as well, showing how a childhood picture unlocked a memory between him and his friend that sparks an energetic conversation. Later on we see that same energy sparked in the members of the Embera tribe when King shows them pictures of themselves. Instilling the message that no matter what the culture, pictures have power.
Finding the Embera tribe was not an easy feat nor was there a guarantee he would find the actual village he was at two decades ago. We get to see how the journey takes King through security checkpoints, the possibility of being kidnaped, and other challenges, including almost losing all the photos at the beginning of his trip. Never once though do we see King give up or get frustrated during his search; a little scared but not frustrated. Once he does find the Embera Tribe, joy and love just fill the screen and the audience. I never got a feeling of exploitation or negativity during the entire run time. Bancoco is one of the most positive documentaries I have seen in a while.
One of the most touching things about Bancoco is how the villagers react to seeing pictures of themselves from twenty years ago, with most having never seen a picture of themselves until King arrived. A couple of people were embarrassed, some you could tell were trying to search for the moment in their memory, but all of them had a genuine smile on their faces. There is a bittersweet story that unfolds about a daughter of one family that was unexpected. King handles telling this story with care and delicacy. It was a moment that also reinforced the theme of Bancoco. Brad King’s motivation always felt very genuine with nothing played up for the camera, which I very much appreciated and apparently so did the tribe. In a show of appreciation, the Embera people made King a member of the tribe and gave him a name, Bancoco. The meaning of the name is hilarious and sincere.
Bancoco made my eyes misty more than a few times. The feeling of nostalgia hit at the heart and it made me want to look at the many old pictures and videos of my family and friends. In today’s world, we take for granted the pictures we take. This documentary helped me rediscover an appreciation for what a single image can do. If you are feeling down and need a pick-me-up, I suggest you check out Bancoco, not only will it get you to think, but also to reflect. Maybe in twenty years Brad King will make another documentary of him watching his original documentary and see what memories it unlocks for him.
I have been reviewing films since high school. I love discussing films with those who share my passion for them. I also do video reviews on YouTube and on my podcast.