This review previously ran on November 12, 2015 during the AFI Film Festival
After being awarded the “Camera d’Or” prize at the 2015 Cannes Film Festival, “Land and Shade” had its US premiere at the AFI FEST this week and was just honored with the festival’s highest award, “The New Auteurs Grand Jury Award”. The minimalism in the photography of “Land and Shade” speaks volumes; with beautiful sweeping long takes of one family’s Columbian home and the hardships they experience to barely make a living, director César Augusto Acevedo has created not just a moving film, but a transcendent viewing experience.
When the patriarch of the family, Gerardo, falls ill, his estranged father, Alfonso, reunites with his ailing son and the family he hasn’t seen in seventeen years to offer his help. Gerardo, his wife, their young son, and his mother, Alfonso’s ex-wife, live in a rundown home in the Colombian countryside where they work as sugarcane farmers. It’s unveiled that Alfonso left the life he knew to escape the unbearable living conditions his family still faces today- the same conditions that caused Gerardo’s illness- and so his return home is met with some hesitancy at first, but his budding relationship with his young grandson proves his well-intentions and gives way for the rest of the family to welcome him back into their lives once again.
What Acevedo does so well is he explores a moment in the mundane life of this family with such an attentive and sensitive eye, much to the credit of his cinematographer, Mateo Guzman. Nothing overly “exciting” happens in the film per se, but the attention to detail he achieves onscreen will resonate with those who sympathize with the struggles of the working class. Battling harsh working conditions, like falling ash from the continuous fires that burn as part of the harvesting process, the simple wiping down of dusty ash from a growing plant leaf is potently symbolic.
With a specific cinematic style comprised of long takes and vivid and vibrant aesthetics, “Land and Shade” is a sensory-driven film about the stark reality of one salt of the earth, working class family, and their indelible perseverance for a better life. Remarkably, “Land and Shade” is Acevedo’s directorial debut and I know I speak for the audience at large when I say that I anticipate big things in his future. His name is definitely one to remember.
‘Land and Shade’ is not rated. Opens in select theaters Friday, 6/17.