Siembra (2015) is a movie that sets out to defy cinematic expectations. It is shot completely in black and white, even as it roams through colorful street festivals. Turco, the protagonist, is not charismatic and rarely shows emotion on screen. What seems like a tale of an estranged father and son attempting to mend their relationship is quashed in the first 10 minutes, with Turco’s son Yosner’s sudden death. Even the camera work challenges visual norms. The film starts with a scene of Yosner dancing, though the extreme close up of his chest makes it impossible to see any of his moves. In later dance scenes, the camera stays still as the dancer enters and exits the frame, making it hard to figure out the subject of the shot. While the plot and acting of the film is enough to draw the viewer in, the way it is shot quickly becomes one of its most noteworthy aspects.
While some films go «experimental» as an exercise, Angela Osorio and Santiago Lozano’s Siembra utilizes interesting shots in a way that reflects story being told in the film. Turco has been displaced by an armed conflict and is now forced to live in a city far from his home on Colombia’s Pacific coast. Before his death, Yosner derides Turco for wanting to return, seeing the urban setting as a new opportunity. Turco’s wandering after his Yosner’s death has as much to do with the loss of his son as it does with the loss of his land. Besides coming to terms with their icy relationship, where should the body be buried? With these complex issues going on in the head of a man of such few words, the camera takes on the challenge of telling the emotional story. Turco may be overwhelmed by all the change around him, or simply unable to focus. As other community members care for Yosner’s body, Turco goes off on a journey with seemingly no destination.
The shooting is done in such an interesting way that the viewer must take note when the film reverts to more traditional shots. Turco’s own dance scene, in which he momentarily lets himself go and smiles, stands out as a special moment in the film. The very last shot of the film (no spoilers) is particularly powerful because of its simplicity. Siembra shows not only the human repercussions of armed conflicts, but also how film can be a useful tool for telling these stories visually.