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Cinema Review: Land and Shade ****

Amy Taylor reviews 'a stunning debut' that is 'a must see'.

From the opening seconds of César Acevedo’s Land and Shade, which capture the lead actor, Haimer Leal, walking down a dusty road in Colombia that seems to have been cut through a field of tall, almost intimidating sugar cane, it’s clear that this film is one of contrasts. However, nature is just the impressive setting for moving family drama that sees an absent father return to care for his now adult and dying son, Gerardo (Edison Raigosa).

That’s a lot to put in a film that only lasts 97 minutes, but Land and Shade manages to cram everything in by inviting the viewer into a totally different, almost alien and utterly immersive world. A place where the lives of a family of poor sugar cane workers have become as rooted to the ground as the plants they harvest, a desolate land with toxic air and little hope for the future.

Winner of the Cannes Film Festival’s Caméra d’Or for best first film, Acevedo’s very first feature film is an unflinching look at not just a fractured family, struggling after the sudden departure of the father figure, but also a world changed by the demand for sugar and fast, cheap workers. The characters are bound, not just to each other, but the land itself, and they are faced with a choice: leave for a better life or stay.

Drawing favourable comparisons with the work of Terence Mallick, and featuring a landscape that evokes The Grapes of Wrath, Land and Shade doesn’t shy away from difficult themes and choices. A stunning debut that features a number of very relevant and serious questions, it would be nothing without the exceptional performances from each and every single member of the small, but excellent cast. A must see.

Reviewed as part of this year’s Glasgow Film Festival.

Tags: events cinema

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