Há Terra! (There Is Land!), 2016 is a short film that returns to the young protagonist Ivonete dos Santos Moraes, who first appeared Vaz’s earlier film A Idade da Pedra (The Age of Stone), a voyage that leads the audience into the far west of Brazil to encounter a petrified monument of modernist Brasilia in the middle of nowhere. The film Há Terra! picks up on the journey again, but this time Vaz builds a narrative concerned directly with Ivonete, who hails from the region of Quilombos, what was once settlements of runaway slaves and has joined the Landless Workers’ Movement in Brazil’s Sertão. 1 Sertão means “backcountry” or “backlands,” and when the Portuguese colonized Brazil, they clung to the coast rather than penetrating the vast and unknown interior. It was due to a mixture of fear and disdain that they stayed coastal, an attitude that still forms part of the Brazilian perspective. When outsiders look at the Sertão, they generally see a unique ecosystem and culture, but when many Brazilians look, they see poverty, drought and everything they are trying to escape. Viewed as somewhere to flee from, not return to in the case of Ivonete. For the first eight minutes of the film, Ivonete has the total control of the camera and microphone. Darting camera movements appear to chase her through the high grass of the hinterland, as if in a game of cat and mouse. Ana Vaz intends to destabilize the power dynamic in ethnographic filmmaking, subverting the filmmaker’s gaze and relationship to the ‘other’ by situating within the film the narrative and perspective of the territory. As a result, the chase or the hunt seems to represent untameable violence acted upon the land. Meanwhile the recurring sound loop of a man shouting “há terra!” (“there is land”) conjures up the assertion that there is no reason for the landless. As a result, the film oscillates from multiple tension points, between the encounter and the chase, between the land and the landless.
1MST is the largest social movement in Latin America; a 40-year union-turned-protest fighting for land rights from influential agriculturalists. Its main aim is campaigning for permission to settle on public land supposedly protected from deforestation under Brazil’s environmental laws.
Ana Vaz examines history and territory in her native Brazil calling attention to the interdependent relationships between colonialism, modernism and the Anthropocene. Her work consisting of filmmaking and performance is a reaction to the human exploitation and swallowing up of land and peoples that have been foundational to the existence of the country through a profusion of portraits of territories, animals, and people. Using speculative and intuitive models, Vaz attempts to bring in perspectives that have been absent from history, learning from the struggles of rural workers and landless laborers in Brazil.