“Suspension” tells a tale of two roads. The first connects the town of San Francisco and the city of Mocoa in Putumayo, Colombia, locations that as the bird flies are less than 20 miles apart. But the route itself, encompassing a stretch called “El Trampolín de la Muerte” (“the springboard of death”), has a reputation as one of the world’s most dangerous, as a single, unpaved lane snakes through the Andean-Amazon piedmont. Even the most careful drivers can be crushed by falling rocks.
At the beginning of this documentary, the director, Simón Uribe, excerpts news footage from a deadly 1991 avalanche; we see people taking a zipline to get around it. When the movie jumps to the near-present, Uribe supplies a long shot worthy of Jacques Tati: Vehicles try to pass one another on a road that barely looks wide enough for any of them.
The second road is a phantom — a long-promised Mocoa-San Francisco bypass that a simulation illustrates as a sleek chain of bridges and tunnels. Uribe observes it being built: Construction workers tediously thwack at rock or go about their jobs in downpours. But residents are pessimistic about the project’s prospects for completion, and there’s morbid humor in an aerial shot of a span without a destination. The movie concludes with the 2017 mudslide that devastated Mocoa.
Uribe directs for sensory effect rather than context, which is minimal and parceled out as needed, and deals with the politics of the construction project glancingly, an approach that registers as alternately poetic and coy. The harrowing, mountainous scenery surely loses something without the big screen.
Not rated. In Spanish, with subtitles. Running time: 1 hour 12 minutes. Rent on Vimeo.