By John Seven
‘GREEN FRONTIER’ (NETFLIX)
I can guarantee that you’ve never seen anything quite like “Green Frontier.” It’s the type of series that defies short description. Produced in Colombia and benefiting from on-location filming at the Amazon River, “Green Frontier” not only focuses on the indigenous population there, but devotes its thematic focus to the encroachment of European-based civilization hoping to exploit it. But it doesn’t do it in such a way that it seems like you’re being lectured at — rather the makers of “Green Frontier” wrap these ideas within a supernatural setting that leads the viewer to embrace the indigenous culture as it tries to protect itself from invaders.
After several nuns are murdered in the jungle, investigator Helena Poveda (Juana del R o) is sent from Bogota to investigate, butting heads with the local corrupt police and finding the native population difficult to connect with. The story switches between Helena’s investigation and the story of a remote native tribe in the jungle that claims to be the chosen keeper of the jungle’s secrets and have been visited by a sinister white man, who is seeking to commander their knowledge. Events past and present swirl around each other, stories begin to connect and intertwine, and histories reveal there is more than meets the eye to Helena’s investigation.
Since it’s so hard to compare it to anything, I’m going to register the idea that this is like a Colombian version of “Twin Peaks,” in that an outside investigator comes to investigate a murder scene and becomes wrapped up in very particular supernatural mythology in the region being visited, with the idea that ancient knowledge is still at play in modern events and the past and present and spaces beyond reality coexist, sometimes at the same time. “Green Frontier” is shot with great elegance, unfolds in a deliberately scattered way that challenges you to piece together the puzzle, and, by the end, defiantly refuses to lay everything out there for you.
‘HOLLOW LAND’ (OVIDTV)
This animated short from Michelle Kranot and Uri Kranot takes the idea of immigration to depict how the hopeful desires of those seeking a home can clash against the realities of what they find. In this telling, the journey typically leads to a location embossed with a hopeful glow, idealized before the travelers ever get there.
In this case, it’s a land marked by deception. Berta and Solomon must place plungers on their head upon arrival in Utopia and then drag a bathtub across a barren desert to find a place to live. They end up in a decrepit city with crumbling amenities and hostile oppression, even in their dreams, eventually leading to the conclusion that many of us might be eternal wanderers in a world where no society can truly provide what is required for the spirit to survive.
The Kranots are married and have said in interviews that the film is a reaction to living in Israel, which they left for Europe. The animation is rich in textures and uses the grotesque in service of tremendous beauty, created by flat clay puppets and both hand-drawn and digital aspects to the animation. This is a visual wonder, with a lot of emotional and intellectual depth packed into its short running time, a solid reminder that animated works do not require a glittery sheen to be successful.
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