Doc/Fest: Beaverland

Beaverland is a film about beavers. Sort of. It takes places on the island of Tierra del Fuego in Chile, as two biologists set out to study and kill the beavers who have taken over, and destroyed, the ecosystem on the island. Their lonely crusade against the beaver is set against the stark backdrop of the landscape which has been wasted by the beavers’ destructive dam-building practices.

It sounds like a really fun idea for a documentary, and the opening titles made me giggle with their grandiose proclamation that they were setting out ‘TO KILL BEAVERS’. The main problem with the documentary, therefore, is that it’s actually really boring. Clocking in at just 66 minutes long, it felt short but also glacially paced. The attempts to create a bigger meaning to the picture were undermined by the frankly preposterous logic being employed by the biologists, who, rather than a humane cull, sought to take the beavers out one at a time. But the filmmakers fail to touch upon this hypocrisy, such is the distance of their lens, and the rest is a rather cold picture that never really engages with its protagonists as humans, rather than just beaver hunters.

That said, Beaverland is beautifully and elegiacally shot. Tierra del Fuego is a place of stark beauty and the camera loves it. The young filmmakers Luco and Molina have a superb eye for the unfolding of a twee dramedy, that plays more like a Sundance indie feature than a documentary. That is probably it’s greatest strength, as well as one of its biggest failures. The film is a well-crafted love letter to the muddy south of the South American continent, but it both fails to fully come to grips with the ethically dilemma at the heart of its subject, and to grab the audience on anything more than an aesthetic level.

beaverlandposter
2.5
Title: Beaverland
Directors: Antonio Luco and Nicolas Molina
Running time: An amazingly soporific 66 mins

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