Published Jun 03, 2010Back in the mid-'80s, when Oliver North was running around with his tail between his legs and American children were shooting up ersatz alien Sandinistas on a quest to defeat the "Red" Falcon in the videogame Contra, I doubt anyone predicted sunny resorts with sweaty tourists smelling of Hawaiian Tropic on the coastline of Nicaragua.
Or maybe they did, leaping at the first opportunity to exploit a corruptible Liberal government to gobble up land and development opportunities like a big ole game of Monopoly, buying up properties, building hotels and jacking up the price, fucking over anyone that stands in the way of their "winning."
Shot over four years, Julian Pinder's documentary covers much of the capitalistic optimism of four Yankee subjects and the contrary woes of local Nicaraguan naysayers. And while that alone would make for an intriguing affair, this relaxed, semi-comedic tale of conflicting ideologues and the struggle for dominance doesn't reduce things to caricatures and archetypes, having the narrative benefit of a political shift midway when Daniel Ortega regains power in 2007. With him comes some feisty Sandinistas and bad news for land developers.
Because Pinder's approach refrains from preaching, delivering a timeline approach with pauses to take in the scenery, and featuring a variety of idiosyncratic characters, this doc never feels heavy-handed or pedagogical. It's quite breezy and entertaining, even if some of the attitudes and outlooks within are grating and obnoxious.
Contextualizing this modern predicament by interjecting past conflicts between America and Nicaragua, Land does more than comment on a modern social issue. It builds a history of greed and manipulation versus resistance, showing what can happen when people are pushed around and backed into a corner, finding the humour in watching someone smug get their comeuppance. (Kinosmith)