Drink several double espressos first before watching

by Martin Hafer

Land and Shade is a Colombian film that is extremely slow and was very difficult for me to finish. The actors all showed little in the way of energy or emotion and the direction was very slow and deliberate. Some might like this and see it as artsy and realistic…others, like me, just wanted an infusion of energy and found it all quite dull. The lack of music and somber tone of the film is quite jarring. It’s a shame, as the story of some poor sugar cane workers is worth telling.

When the film begins, Alfonso returns home after disappearing for seventeen years! Naturally, his wife is less than thrilled to see him but his sick son and his family embrace the wayward father and he sticks around instead of just coming and going. Much of the time, he stays home and takes care of the house, his sick son and his grandson while he wife and daughter-in-law break their backs working in the sugar cane fields. This work is tough, pay is infrequent and the constant burning of the sugar cane (to remove the leaves and ready the stalks for harvest) fills the air with ash…and is the reason for the son’s lung disease. Alfonso tries to get the family to leave their hellish lives…but they are determined to just stick it out and continue with their bleak lives.

Land and Shade
Directed by
César Augusto Acevedo
Haimer Leal, Hilda Ruiz, Edison Raigosa
Release Date
17 June 2016
Martin’s Grade: D

To me, the film was just glacially slow and the only way I could have watched it in one sitting was if I’d been rigged up like Malcolm McDowell was in A Clockwork Orange….you know, with the eyelids pried open and strapped into a chair facing the screen. In films like this there is a balancing act between extreme realism and watchability…and I wish they’d focused a bit more on making the picture watchable. The folks’ lives were dull an oppressive…and I just tired of this sense of bleakness and stagnation. And, I got tired of seeing the characters all staring off into space. Watch it if you want, but for me it was an experience I don’t want to repeat. I do know the film played at the prestigious Cannes Film Festival…where it actually won some awards. This is a clear case where a film is applauded by some and incomprehensible to the rest of us.