THE EARTH AND The SHADOW is a poetic film, like its title, which symbolizes our roots, and demons…

In this first feature is promising, Caesar Acevedo speaks to us of a man (Alfonso), who has abandoned his family and his homeland, refusing to see it disfigured by the development of the sugar industry. 17 years later, forced to return to support his son condemned by the disease, here is confronted with his past, his guilt, the desolation of the peasants, who remained there, but also to decisions to take to help his family out.

With THE EARTH AND The SHADOW it has little dialogues. Everything goes through the images. And it is here that lies the talent of César Acevedo : being able to immerse ourselves in an atmosphere, we convey ideas and feelings primarily through a simple but personal. It is probably this force which earned him the award of the golden Camera at the Cannes film Festival 2015.

In fact, as soon as the first few seconds, here we are immersed in an intimate atmosphere at the heart of his native Colombia, in a microcosm consisting of a small house and a tree as majestic as symbolic, surrounded by sugar cane fields. Very quickly, we feel a choking sensation whose origin is multiple. First of all because the burning and exploitation of these fields will cause a rain of ash continues forcing this family to live shutters and windows closed to protect themselves. Then, because these beings are also prisoners of their feelings – grief, anger, or guilt that prevent, at the outset, to reconnect in spite of the emergency. The result is a climate that is weighing the purpose of which is to make us share the discomfort of the five protagonists, suddenly forced a close to difficult to bear both physically and emotionally. All this comes on top of political tension : that of the peasants, disappointed and angry, who believed in an industrial progress that would eventually ruin the soil of this region, as well as its inhabitants (with Alicia, her son Gerardo, and his daughter-in-law). They chose to defend their roots, their identity, their land (rather than flee with Alfonso), and struggle every day in this sense, with courage and dignity, at the risk of their health and their family. The apocalyptic landscape, however, reveals that this earth-there will spring up not from its ashes, and that this battle is futile.

Empathy is the result, and both of these images of desolation to what they represent in and outside the home, but also the use of framing very tight, which ensure the intimate side of the film (on the eyes of the protagonists who seem to sometimes crash in the us, on their gestures, what they touch, to the point that one has the impression of living with them).

“Poetic Film made with talent and uniqueness, THE EARTH AND The missing SHADOW, however, take us completely, for lack of pace.”

In the first part, the impassibility of these beings locked up physically, and morally we are ingeniously served through long static shots of the protagonists back. These scenes, simple but powerful, we refer to the paralysis in which they find themselves : powerless in the face of the future of their sons and of their land. Positively, it also symbolizes a presence, a strength, but also the time of reflection and retrenchment necessary before making a huge decision.

In a second part, the links are connected irrevocably by love, solidarity and need. Slowly, César Acevedo leaves hope, the emotions, the sensations, under the benevolent eye of his camera. There is beauty and love in this film in spite of the blackness of the ash that surrounds it. A softness and a tenderness palpable through the images, without big speeches. The director induces subtly the opening movement of the characters making them more human. This is the case, for example when he films the gestures of this ” mamma “, her skin dull and wrinkled by the age. The only character hardened visible at the start, we slide into softness and heat that remind us of those of our great-grandmothers. The tenderness is mainly introduced by means of this grandfather, who comes back full of goodwill, exceeds its guilt and tries to reconnect links between the three generations. He tries especially to help the little son adorable, brave and touching that it discovers.

During the development of this film, the director was forced to abandon the side-autobiographical work that he initially wanted to, realizing that it would have kept the viewer too far out and lead to failure. The strength of this personal experience, Acevedo shows us with THE EARTH AND The SHADOW that attachment to its roots, can lead us all to the bottom than towards the light. In fact, one can get lost when one insists on wanting to preserve something that is dear to us but which is destined to disappear (like Alicia), so that it is sometimes better to leave with good memories… It’s the same for the roots in “family” that can prevent us from moving forward – on the one hand the attachment of Gerardo to his mother prevents him from leaving this place bad, and no future. The other hand, it is the eternal commitment of Alfonso to his family that will push him to return to save those he can from this impasse.

Worn by actors (most in their first role) of a natural confounding which give us the illusion of living this “slice of life” with them, this film has many qualities. It remains, of course, on a record classic, but made with talent and uniqueness. The only downside is that the pace of fishing a bit and leads to a length harmful at all. Indeed, if the slow pace is perfectly justified at the beginning, inherent in the atmosphere and in the state of immobility of the characters, the director has not been able to propel the film to the acceleration of the feelings imposed by events. A shame because it leaves us on a slight note of weariness in place of an emotion.

Stephanie Ayache


Original title : La Tierra y la Sombra

Achievement : Cesar Acevedo

Genre : Drama

Main players : Haimer Leal, Hilda Ruiz, Edison Raigosa, Marleyda Soto & José Felipe Cardenas

Country of origin : Colombia

Released : February 3, 2016

Duration : 1h37

Distributor : Pyramide Distribution

Synopsis : Alfonso is an old peasant who returns to the country to be at the bedside of his sick son. He finds his former home, where still live the one who was his wife, his daughter-in-law and his grandson. He discovers an apocalyptic landscape. The home is surrounded by huge plantations of sugar cane, the operation of which causes a rain of ash continues. 17 years after having abandoned his family, Alfonso will attempt to regain its place and to save his family.

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