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Land ‘If you can’t cope with the ants, don’t mess with the anthill.” So goes a slogan chanted by the activists occupying Land land belonging to a sugarcane processing plant in the north-eastern Brazilian town of Santa Helena – one branch of the Landless Workers Movement (MST) that has been battling for land access for smallholder farmers in the country since 1984. The cause is unimpeachable, and even more pressing with Jair Bolsonaro’s current backing for ruthless agribusiness whose giant footprint excludes almost everyone else.

So it’s surprising that the effect of this advocatory and visually sharp documentary – director Camila Freitas’s feature-length debut – is somewhat deadening. Filmed over four years, it forgoes commentary, simply accompanying the peasant-activists as they daydream about how to allocate the terrain, debate their principles, and try to win hearts and minds in town. Structured around long dialogue scenes shot through with testimony of injustice and struggle, it finally exudes a strange passivity despite all the idealism being traded. No charismatic individual strong enough to carry the film emerges; the rounds of protest against the status quo, away from the fields, seem Sisyphean.

Duration: 89 min