Review by Sean Boelman
Directed by Cecilia Aldarondo, Landfall is perhaps one of the most important documentaries that would have had its debut at the cancelled 2020 Tribeca Film Festival. Offering a compelling look at the lingering aftermath of Hurricane Maria on the commonwealth of Puerto Rico, this documentary may not be easy to watch, but it is essential viewing nevertheless.
The film takes a look at the devastating impact that Hurricane Maria had on the infrastructure and residents of Puerto Rico and how the community is banding together in an attempt to rebuild from the ground up. Although the situation in Puerto Rico has received a moderate amount of coverage in the media, Aldarondo may be the first person to effectively convey the urgency of what is happening.
Aldarondo makes the interesting decision of trying to provide a comprehensive portrait of what is happening in the country, and while that would normally prevent the viewer from forming a personal connection with the story, it works quite well in this case. This movie emphasizes the sense of community, and Aldarondo’s method is effective in doing so.
Not too far below the surface also lies some important political commentary that makes the film feel all the more relevant. The government of Puerto Rico has come under fire by critics both external and internal for the way they handled the aftermath of the hurricane, and they are being questioned again with their handling of the current crisis. This movie can provide some interesting insight into that current issue.
As is the case with many documentaries that feature a large number of interviewees such as this, there are some segments that are more interesting than others. A few sequences admittedly feel like human interest stories akin to what has already been seen on the news, but when Aldarondo cuts deeper into the core of the issue, the film becomes much more thought-provoking.
At just over an hour and a half in length, Aldarondo is able to tell her story in a concise and cinematic way. Even though there is no way that the stories of every Puerto Rican affected by the crisis could be told in a movie format, the diversity and scope of the voices that Aldarondo amplifies feels strong enough to be representative of the greater population.
Aldarondo also does a wonderful job of shooting the film. By juxtaposing the natural beauty of the island and the harshness of the destruction left in the wake of the storm, Aldarondo gives the movie a poetic look that is packed with meaning. The score by Angelica Negrón also adds quite a bit to the film.
Landfall is certainly a very accomplished documentary, and its topical nature makes it something that demands to be seen. Hopefully this movie will make its way to audiences sooner rather than later, as there is a need for this message to be heard.
Landfall was set to debut at the cancelled 2020 Tribeca Film Festival. It is currently seeking distribution.