Dry Ground Burning ★★★ 1/2 TIFF

Dry Ground Burning ★★★ 1/2 TIFF

Dry Ground Burning is an absorbing film with a lot to say and punches each of those points home without hesitation. Bold throughout, this hybrid documentary is a film like a few others.

Sisters Chitara and Léa are the leaders of an all-female gang who steal oil from pipelines to sell to male motorcycle gang while trying to evade the capture of the police.

What Joana Pimenta and Adirley Queirós do best in Dry Ground Burning to allow their non-actors to be as close to themselves as possible; they have clearly experienced these difficult moments in their lives. So, letting them effectively run with a loose rein and ensuring their cast hits the situation points works very well to get as authentic a feel to their film as possible. That is an authenticity that normal actors cannot really bring, and it truly helps elevate the film.

Their fluidity as filmmakers allows for this part documentary, part dystopian sci-fi to work as well as it does. However, portions or scenes drag on for a bit too long, leaving the film to bloat a touch to over two and a half hours in length. For a film that is so directed at the current Brazilian regime, you would want it to be as sharp with its editing choices as it is with its overarching story. We are with these sisters and want them to reconnect and rise in this seemingly hopeless world, but with the pacing issues, we are held back from doing so.

This disjointedness doesn’t spoil the overall feeling towards the film, but it is a noticeable enough issue. As mentioned, though, this experimentation mainly works, and when it is mostly working, it astonishes, becoming a type of filmmaking that will continue to grow. Gone are the clean shots that you would expect if the film was told in a more standard way, and in some shots, framed just off enough to be noticeable. This documentary style choice entices its audience, and moments are held for too long, but with these characters and this story, you are engrossed enough not to care.

Dry Ground Burning sticks with you; it’s simply a gorgeous and compelling film. If the aim was to shock and awe its audience, it ultimately succeeds here, with it being something that you can’t help but talk about long after the credits have rolled.

★★★ 1/2

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