Reviewed by: Amber Wilkinson

"Amador shoots in an unhurried style, that requires a bit of patience from the viewer but is perfectly suited to the way of life."

Alfonso Amador's laidback and bucolic documentary takes a meticulous look at the work of a Valencian family, who have farmed the tiger nuts used to make the classic "milkshake" style drink horchata in the La Huerta region of Spain for generations. Shot in Academy ratio with a rounded frame edge (sadly not shown in the images that have been released to accompany film reviews) - the style lends the film an archive feel from the start as we watch the family stubble burning - images that bookend the film and which might well trigger childhood memories for those who lived in the UK countryside before the practice was banned in 1993.

Grandad Toni Ramon could almost have grown out of the soil himself, such is is craggy aspect, although as the film goes along we'll learn despite being a man of few words, he has a dry sense of humour, especially when talking about smoking.  Amador, who also shot the film, watches patiently as the seasons come and go. There's time for sandwich eating and chat but when the work is there to be done, it often has an intense physicality - from irrigation, where Camagroga is the nickname they take on the chalkboard used to distinguish one farming family from another, to sorting the nuts and turning them in the barn where they're drying. We don't need to be told how the knowledge gets past along - we can see it in the way that Toni's daughter Inma works the land alongside her father and, even more so, in the way that his young grandson Marc is now picking up the techniques.

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Amador shoots in an unhurried style, that requires a bit of patience from the viewer but is perfectly suited to the way of life, where waiting for the perfect moment to do things is as important as getting them done swiftly when the time is right. The documentarian finds a neat way to pad out our learning, by filming Marc quizzing his grandad about aspects of the process for a project he then presents to his schoolmates.

There's also a tension beneath the tranquillity as we gradually learn the pressures the farmers are under - both from globalisation and from the Spanish government, which plans to requisition land for a new road. "La Huerta is life," a slogan declares and we see how it is a way of life, largely unchanged, for these families who still till the land. Slogans, though, as we all know can come and go - you're left hoping this distinctive practice passed down the generations isn't forced by circumstances to follow suit.

Reviewed on: 26 Jun 2020
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A portrait of the unique agricultural centre la Huerta de Valencia, where tiger nuts are grown and turned into the regional drink horchata.

Director: Alfonso Amador

Writer: Alfonso Amador, Sergi Dies

Year: 2019

Runtime: 111 minutes

Country: Spain


Doc/Fest 2020

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