There is nothing natural about wage labor as a commodity. Nor is there anything natural about sugarcane in Colombia. The former originated in 18th-century England; the latter originated in South Asia and Melanesia, and appeared in Colombia only around the middle of the 18th century. It was brought there by money-mad people to feed indigenous and African slaves working in the mines. Today, sugarcane feeds humans and their cars, as ethanol. Today, Colombia’s sugarcane cutters earn very little and live in conditions that are extremely mean.
The movie about this world—that of Colombian sugarcane cutters—is Land and Shade. But, amazingly, this film, which is directed by César Augusto Acevedo and was the winner of Cannes’s prestigious Caméra d’Or in 2015, is very political but not at all didactic. It is a gorgeous and thoughtful work. Not one shot in it will not hold and absorb your attention.
One moment: an endless field of sugarcane. The next moment: a tree of great size and antiquity. The next moment: the injured hand of an old man who returns to a family he abandoned many years ago. The next moment: the worn faces of laborers who work in the sun for little and sometimes no pay. Land and Shade will definitely be in my top 10 films of the year.