Dry Ground Burning
“Dry Ground Burning,” the Brazilian docudrama by Joana Pimenta and Adirley Queirós, is Cinema Tropical’s “Best Latin American Film of the Year.”
A Real Story
The entire world has entered a period of change, and it is starting to get uncomfortable. The post-colonial system of exploitation is on the ropes. The climate is breaking faster than we can understand. And instead of looking for solutions, politicians create cover for their thievery by putting their own people to fight one another.
Welcome to Brazil (and much of the rest of the world, including the United States). Even New York’s lovely Brazilian Day celebration was cancelled last year because of the danger of violence stoked by Bolsonaro’s far-right government ~ even before the election. The world is turning upside down. They say that, “politics is the last refuge of the scoundrel.”
The film was made in Brazil during Bolsonaro’s administration. A real political party was registered to smooth the filmmaking. It’s a very unusual form of documentary – drama. The two forms really do blend together.
Just released from prison, Léa (Léa Alves Silva) returns home to the Brasilia favela of Sol Nascente and joins up with her half-sister Chitara (Joana Darc Furtado), the fearless leader of an all-female gang that steals and refines oil from underground pipes and sells gasoline to a clandestine network of motorcyclists.
Living in constant opposition to Jair Bolsonaro’s fiercely authoritarian and militarized government, Chitara’s women claim the streets for themselves as a declaration of radical political resistance on behalf of ex-cons and the oppressed.
An electrifying portrait of Brazil’s dystopian contemporary moment that blends documentary with narrative fiction and genre elements, “Dry Ground Burning” reunites filmmakers Joana Pimenta and Adirley Queirós (Once There Was Brasilia) to offer a unique vision of the country’s possible future.
The filmmakers, Joana Pimenta and Adirley Queirós, are known for breaking the form. The world is on edge and this film is on the edge. So here, the poor are right, the poor are strong, and their leaders are women of color.
They are not women in the traditional mold. These are tough women. But this is what happens when people get pushed too far.
They say that, “behind every great man, there’s a great woman.” When you have two women together, it’s double-trouble.
A Real Movie
The lead actors are not even professionals. Just like her film character, Léa really is just out of prison, and that’s her real name. So the fiction unspools naturally from reality itself.
Part gangster film, part cowboy western, and part science fiction, this is one idea of what can happen when real life becomes entirely unreal. We are heading there. Nobody should want this, but it’s what happens when leaders take instead of giving to the people. Everything is breaking down, so let’s break all the rules, and set the world on fire.
In Brazilian Portuguese with English subtitles.
Screens at the Brooklyn Academy of Music: BAM, April 21 – May 3, 2023. $16.