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The Undergrowth

La hojarasca
by Macu Machín
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A plot of land on a Canary Island – not far from the volcano. There are almond trees and animals here; the wine matures in barrels. Three sisters are its legal heirs: one of them, Carmen, cultivates the land to this day; now, Elsa and Maura have also returned, the latter no longer well and dependent on Elsa’s care. There is no breadwinner in sight, the island is run by a matriarchy, albeit an involuntary one; most of the men have emigrated. The sisters deal with the paradoxical nature of their inheritance, at once a task, a burden and the promise of a secure existence in the world. In her poetic feature-length debut, Macu Machín shifts delicately between documentary observation and staging. Whether by way of acting, reconstruction or simply being in front of the camera – the three women’s strategies for life are narrated by the body. The Undergrowth is a film of few words – places and people are revealed through images and allegories. The titular “dead leaves” allude to the passing of time and the finite. As pots bubble and fires crackle, the volcano makes its presence felt, spewing out lava in a manner at once ceremonial and apocalyptic. The everyday – beautiful and unruly.

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