For those who were still sceptical, Les dépossédés (The Dispossessed) provides the ultimate evidence to prove that the question of land and soil is really the most serious and urgent one in the international agenda. This is not the first documentary work to focus on the issue, but with his film project Mathieu Roy was able to gather the most striking examples from very different countries including Congo, India, Switzerland, Canada or Brazil, and to show how the aligned interests of multinational companies and of corrupted politicians is producing the most impressive phenomenon of expropriation in history. This amounts to the disappearance of rural economies and the saturation of agriculture with chemicals, the consequences of which include not only the general degradation of the quality of food and the environment, with tragic aftereffects on the health of the people, but also the destruction of the social structures and the local identities, brought about also through the quickening of urbanization. It is about the loss of the ability to be independent and autonomous through small-scale agriculture; thus, it is about a highly political question.
After zipping through the prologue at a chocking tempo (I am referring to the short version screened in Solothurn), Roy takes ample time to let the documented images display their own power. Even if the cinematography favours direct confrontation with the subject more than the beauty of the picture, the force of Les dépossédés is in the rare clarity and precision of the explanations of the complex economic and societal dynamics, for which Roy’s casting should be strongly praised. In addition, the global dimension of the phenomenon and the noteworthy similarities between the developing countries and the richer Western countries affect the spectator with a powerful call to action. (GDS)
Text: Giuseppe Di Salvatore
First published: February 10, 2018