Ventana Sur: Cesar Acevedo on the Values of Land and Families

Tyro Colombian filmmaker makes an auspicious debut with ‘Land and Shade,’ snagging four awards at Cannes

After a number of years as a production assistant at leading Colombian shingle Burning Blue, Colombian tyro filmmaker Cesar Acevedo, 28, burst onto the film world at the Cannes Film Festival no less, taking home not one but four prizes this year, including the prestigious Camera d’Or, for his exquisitely shot feature debut “Land and Shade” (La Tierra y la Sombra”).

It’s an auspicious beginning for this serious young man who talks about the rupture of his family as the inspiration for this somber film about a family coming to terms with the loss of their land to sugarcane fields and renewing long lost ties. Working closely with his DP Mateo Guzman who shot Acevedo’s two previous shorts, “Los Pasos del Agua” and “La Campana,” Acevedo drew on the oeuvre of artists Jean Francois Millet and Andrew Wyeth to inform his painterly compositions.

Aside from Diana Bustamante’s Burning Blue, other backers include France’s Cine-Sud Promotion, the Netherlands’ Topkapi Films, Rampante Films, Brazil’s Preta Porte Films, along with Proimagenes, Ibermedia, Hubert Bals Fund, NF Film Fund, Fundacion Carolina and international sales agent Pyramide Int’l.

How did you get into filmmaking?

I took up some film courses at the Escuela de Communicacion Social y Periodismo de la Universidad del Valle in Cali, Colombia where other prizewinning Colombian filmmakers have emerged: William Vega, Carlos Moreno and Oscar Ruiz Navia. Although I studied journalism, many of our teachers were former filmmakers who belonged to the Caliwood film movement. While at Burning Blue, I was a production assistant in Ruiz Navia’s “El Vuelco del Cangrejo”(“Crab Trap”) and Vega’s “La Sirga.” I also co-wrote “Los Hongos” with Ruiz Navia. I learned a lot working on these sets.

When did you start writing “Land and Shade”?

I started writing “Land and Shade” when I was 19 and finished it when I was 20, but it was only after I could distance myself from my own feelings about my broken family, and focus solely on events that I could make the film. It took me nearly eight years before I could start making it, when I was 27. I shot it between September and October last year.

Where is it set and what were you hoping to achieve with this film?

It’s set in Colombia’s Valle del Cauca where I come from, where 90% of the land is covered by sugar cane fields. I wanted to show the problems that beset this area, and reflect on the values of the struggle of workers and the intensity of feelings within a family.

What are you working on next? 

I’m now writing my next film, which is a more spiritual and poetic view of the violence that beset Colombia in the past. It doesn’t have a title yet. I want to reflect on how this violence has not only destroyed bodies but also spirits.

Do you think your prizes will help you get this next project made faster?

Prizes are a bubble; with the next project, you start from zero again.

Do you think enough has been said about Colombia’s violent past?

No, I don’t think so. Film is a tool to construct memory. They say Colombians reject references to our violent past, but it’s what they consume most: narco novelas are still very popular.

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