Land And Shade


Reviewed by: Jennie Kermode

La Tierra Y La Sombra
"From silence and small details, César Augusto Acevedo weaves a devastating tale."

Do you raise an eyebrow when you see adverts warning about the dangers of sugar? If you're from Colombia, you'd have every reason to. There the danger lies not in becoming obese due to eating extra calories and not exercising. Everybody in this film is hardworking and, if anything, underfed. Rather, the danger lies in suffocating from the thick smoke and dust that cover everything when the cane stubble is burned in the fields. If not imminently fatal, it can cause degenerative lung disease. It cloaks the earth, poisoning the other crops, and it's making this ancient land an impossible place to live.

Land And Shade centres around three generations of the same family, living in a clearing in the midst of the plantations. Alfonso, the grandfather, has returned home after many years of working far away - as many Colombians do - to help look after his son Gerardo, who is bedridden with a lung disease that seems likely to prove fatal in the near future. In fact there is little he can do for Gerardo but talk to him, and he finds himself spending more and more time with his grandson, all the time observing how the place has changed, becoming increasingly anxious to take the boy away whilst his health is still good. His wife, however, is reluctant. Like many a peasant woman, she has her identity rooted in he land. To leave this place would be to leave generations of the dead in he ground; and it would be to leave the place where she once seemed destined to end her days surrounded by a joyful family, secure in the knowledge that her hard work in caring for this land would bear fruit for those coming after.

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"We can't have dogs here because they die," says the grandson sadly, dreaming of a puppy. The battered landscape, which still exhibits traces of its former beauty, now looks post-apocalyptic, signalling the end of the cyclical life once lived here; it seems to presage the end of civilisation. In the fields, the workers bicker at the their bosses; they haven't been paid, they're always told "tomorrow." Nobody believes in tomorrow anymore. yet still there is camaraderie, still there are small moments of joy. Alfonso goes into town to buy a present for boy. One the way back along the road he covers him with his body when a car passes, shielding him from the dust.

Land And Shade is a portrait of a dying way of life, a land gradually being abandoned with no-one knowing what may come after. The buildings are shuttered to protect their inhabitants. Riding in a truck, Gerardo is covered by a sheet as though he were already dead. From silence and small details, César Augusto Acevedo weaves a devastating tale. The family is full of affection, the love of the land runs deep, but here in the sugar fields there is nothing sweet to be found.

Reviewed on: 31 Jan 2016
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Land And Shade packshot
A man returns home after a 17 year absence because his only son is gravely sick.

Director: César Augusto Acevedo

Writer: César Augusto Acevedo

Starring: José Felipe Cárdenas, Haimer Leal, Edison Raigosa, Hilda Ruiz, Marleyda Soto

Year: 2015

Runtime: 97 minutes

Country: Colombia, France, Netherlands, Chile, Brazil

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