Latin America

Ana Vaz
Há Terra!

Há Terra! (There Is Land!) is a short film by Ana Vaz that picks up on the artist’s previous film A Idade da Pedra (2013), in which Vaz imagined premodernity in her native Brazil. Há Terra! revisits the young protagonist Ivonete dos Santos Moraes, who has joined Brazil’s landless movement that struggles to wrestle land from powerful agriculturalists. The story is set in Brazil’s “sertão” (backcountry), where the cry “há terra!” (literally: “there is land”) can also be interpreted as an assertion that there is no reason for the landless, whose organized movement is now some forty years old, to be deprived of land.

The protagonist Ivonete hails from the region of Quilombos, a settlement of runaway slaves that resisted colonizers. In the film, darting camera movements appear to chase Ivonete through the high grass, the young girl comes to personify a territory. The present-tense narration fuses with the past in the myopia of the long focus lens. The recurrent sound loop of a man shouting “Land! Land!” conjures up the distant memory of colonialism. But the beauty of Vaz’s collage of images and sounds hinges on the impossibility for the viewer to let the past pass. Shot on expired 16mm film, the artist describes her cine-poem: “Há Terra! is an encounter, a hunt, a diachronic tale of looking and becoming. As in a game, as in a chase, the film errs between character and land, land and character, predator and prey.”

Ana Vaz is an artist and filmmaker whose works speculate on the relationships between self and other, and myth and history, through a cosmology of signs, references, and perspectives. Taking up the history and territory of her native Brazil, her films consist of assemblages of found and shot materials, and combine ethnography and speculation to unpack the frictions and fictions imprinted upon both natural and built environments and their inhabitants. Through a profusion of intricate and potent portraits of land, animals, and people, Vaz’s work evinces the interdependent relationships between colonialism, modernism, and the Anthropocene. Her artistic approach denounces the human consumption and destruction of the natural environment and native communities. Focusing on the stories and struggles of rural laborers, Vaz’s work offers narratives that have been absent, or erased, from history.