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A scene from Land.

Six Island Productions/Deliberate Films

4 out of 4 stars

Country
USA
Language
English

Land

  • Directed by Julian T. Pinder
  • Classification: NA

In January, 2006, three starry-eyed American resort developers, two expat eccentrics and some increasingly restless locals were living in imperfect harmony in a sleepy fishing village on a gorgeous stretch of Nicaragua's Pacific coast dubbed the Central American Riviera. Toronto filmmaker Julian T. Pinder's captivating, intimate and often funny documentary Land lets us join the citizens of this "underdeveloped" community during the months leading up to a general election that threatens radical change to the status quo.

The 2006 election results in Nicaragua are known: Daniel Ortega became president for the second time. But this knowledge in no way detracts from this rich film, which uses the looming election (with artful use of archival footage and photographs providing historical and political context) to build tension.

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The main attractions of Land, however, are the engaging folk Pinder finds to illustrate the complexity of land issues in Nicaragua. They aren't as simple as "developers bad, locals good," although some gringos do exploit cheap local labour. Pinder makes sure his key characters are not merely "representative" but real people whose fates we care about - even if we don't like some of them that much.

My favourite is Dean, a foul-mouthed, beer-swilling American expat who's a hilarious commentator on the intrigue between developers ("land whores and dirt pimps") and locals. His gruff poetry finds its counterpoint in lovely scenes with Nicaraguan poet Sebastien Narvaez, who feels for the nation's broken soul.

We also get choice words from politician Eden Pastora, once a dashing revolutionary leader. Pastora says Nicaragua has few exports and no industry: "All we have is our land."

Land tells a universal story of foreigners transforming paradise to attract more foreign tourists. Whether this is good or not depends on your idea of the ideal vacation.

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