May 5, 2009
Field for Men, 1973
On the other side of the rural exodus captured in Llorenç Soler''s Long Journey to the Rage is Helena Lumbreras and Marià Lisa's multi-faceted polemic, Field for Men, an exposition on the inequitable systems of landownership and tenancy farming under Franco that perpetuate a cycle of exploitation, unproductivity, and indenture. Wryly prefaced as the fairytale of a bountiful kingdom that once drove away evil forces looking to seize the land, the story is an overt reference to regressive Falangist ideals of returning to the simplicity of an ennobled peasant life. Dismantling the notion of the Second Republic's 1931 agrarian reform as a simple land grab aimed at seizing generations-old farms (a myth instilled by Franco as justification for his own revolution), Lumbreras and Lisa instead frame the reform in the context of disproportionate private ownership in places like Andalusia, where nearly half of the arable land is owned by less than one percent of the population, leading to such widespread problems as collusive, low wages, mismanagement, and wasted productivity. But beyond the familiar left-leaning calls for solidarity and collectivism, what is perhaps the most compelling argument in the film is the problem of urban migration. Far from the popular notion of campesinos moving to the city for entertainment and leisure, Lumbreras and Lisa instead presciently examine the repercussions of an independent, dual economy system in Franco-era Spain - one driven by a robust (and state-friendly) capitalist system, the other, by a traditional rural economy - that has led to mutually exclusive workforces (and consequently, social classes) that could not be easily integrated with the dissolution of the other: creating a subculture of disenfranchisement and transformational struggle (themes that Jia Zhang-ke would also subsequently capture in his images of modernized China).