Alcarras (2022)

The story of a farming family who is in danger of losing land to rampant industrialisation

6/21/20233 min read

Catalan (Spain), Italy

120 minutes, 2022

Director: Carla Simon

Cast: Xenia Roset, Albert Bosch, Jordi Pujol Dolcet, Anna Otin

Awards: Golden Bear, Berlin Film Festival,2022; Lurra Greenpeace award, San Sebastian International film festival, 2022; Best Film and Best director, Gaudi Awards,2023

Good things first- The naturality of the film in its entirety impressed me. Be it locations, be it actors, be it progression of the storyline- I mean whatever it is- all is completely natural. The film is shot on actual locations of a village in Catalonia, Spain. The actors are all local residents engaged in farming except ‘Quimet’s Sister from Barcelona’ who is Director’s sister and is a professional actress. The children -and not one but four of those- have performed fabulously. That speaks of director’s superb capability of handling non-actor-children. In so many sequences, they actually form the central piece of attraction despite the story not even remotely related to them. And this brings us to the plot.

The story is about a farming family of Sole, engaged in Peach farming. The land belonged to another family, Pinyol’s ancestors, earlier but since Quimet Sole’s grandfather had given them Shelter during war, the landowner had allowed the Sole’s to farm there and stay on that land. Now, the current Pinyol generation is not interested in farming and wants to set up a Solar panel farm on his land. This creates problem between Pinyols and Soles. But alas, till the end of the film we are not shown any solution to the problem. In the end Pinyols take over the land and Sole family is rendered landless. And that actually summarises the attitude behind the film.

The creators of the film are very much sympathetic to the cause but do not make any headway apart from showing farmers’ lives in great detail. They show the hard work done by farmers to get right produce, to the consumers in great detail but still are not able to get right price for their crop due to corporate hoarding of farm products. The protest scene filmed looks so much like an actual protest by the farmers. They show the hard work done by women folk of farming families but it all adds up to give an impression of a documentary. So, in essence this is a kind of docu-drama with no clear end or conclusion in sight. It’s OK not to have a definite end but at least there should have been director’s viewpoint since the problem is not unique and is actually worldwide- from developing nations to developed nations- all have a dwindling farming population because of same reasons.

But I must admit that local residents who acted in film have done superb job including the children as mentioned earlier. And yes, part of that credit definitely goes to direction team who must have prepped them very well and to the director, Carla Simon herself. The old grandad too is very impressive. Children when playing amongst themselves play as if there is no camera and there is no shooting unit, when protest to their parents protest as if they really are losing something and protesting to their real parents. That's remarkable. Jordi Pujol Dolcet as 'Quimet' is very impressive along with others who, even though not professional actors, have done complete justice with their parts .

About the director, Carla Simon

The present film by Carla Simon has received favourable responses in almost all film festivals it participated. It did win the coveted Golden bear in Berlin Film Festival, 2022. It was also chosen as Spain’s entry for best foreign film category at Academy Awards last year.

Carla was born in December, 1986 in Barcelona and lost her both parents to AIDS when she was only six years old. She grew up with her uncle at northern Catalonia and spent her growing and formative years in that region. That explains her affinity towards hard working farming population of the region.

In, 2009 She graduated from ‘Universitat Autonoma de Barcelona’ in Film Science and later studied television from London Film School.

Her first feature film, ‘Summer 1993’ (reviewed by this website) was made in 2017 which is about a young girl’s response to her parents’ sudden death. ‘Alcarras’ is her second feature and is actually the first feature in native catalan language to win the grand prize at Berlinale.