No Man’s Land

 In Lens on Screendance

Screen Dance is such a visceral genre of filmmaking. For the most part as a form I find it so often to be more generous, open, and personal than traditional narrative films. Perhaps because there is often no literal, linear, narrative story, or dialogue tacitly instructing you how to feel specifically. So often it is purely what you see is what you get… bodies moving in space.  As such the viewer is left alone to simply feel, and to connect the dots as they will. And this is so important as our emotional reactions to films, whether we are conscious of them or not, have everything to do with shaping our experience.

Nevertheless, people are hard wired to search for story and meaning even when there might be none, or no one simple answer other than it’s a film about the human condition. Tierra Del Nadie (No Man’s Land) is a dance film I’ve known about for a while, viewed many times, but as yet not written about.  In the beginning it seems to me to be as much about responding to place and space as it is about being alive, being in command of your body and making decisions about moving it in the moment. The sites and spaces in which we see the dancers are a mixture of open rural vistas and industrial buildings. A core group of exemplary contemporary dancers perform beautiful, and physically demanding movement both as seemingly individual improvisatory solos and also in groupings that suggest a tribal need for connection and belonging.

But as the strangely dark, droning, and repetitive driving score advances, and as the rarely still camera moves towards, away from, around, and over the dancers, it seems to me to suggest a kind of longing within a dystopian landscape.  With gorgeous choreography and direction by Jose Reches, cinematography by Rafa de Pazos, editing by both of them, and a score by Renato Xeixas, Tierra Del Nadie is well worth viewing. In the end the film resolves visually as shapes within landscape, with dancers in duos allowing a single dancer to shape a horizontal plane, almost like an arrow, and then all the dancers regrouping into a simple mass with the camera receding further and further away. Perhaps, they are pointing/looking – with glimmers of hope – towards an as yet, increasingly threatened, and unknowable future.

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