Directed by Carla Simón and co-written by Simón and Arnau Vilaró, “Alcarràs” tells the story of a peach farming family that lives in the titular area. Rogelio and his wife Tieta Pepita are the family’s eldest. They have a son and two daughters, Quimet, Nati, and Glòria, respectively. Quimet is married to Dolors, and they have one son and two daughters, Roger, Mariona, and Iris, respectively. Nati is married to Cisco, and they have a pair of twins, Pau and Pere, while Glòria is a single mom with a daughter of her own. The central conflict of the movie starts when the family finds out that Rogelio doesn’t have a signed contract for the land they live on. Hence, the administration has the right to take it over and turn it into a solar power plant. But since Quimet is adamant about holding onto his peach farming, the family finds itself at an impasse not just with the authorities but with each other as well because not all of them see eye-to-eye all the time. Simón and Vilaró’s calm and breezy exploration of the Solé household highlights the issues that multi-generational farmer families face and how capitalism and industrialization, regardless of their environment-friendly nature, don’t take human emotions into consideration. So, let’s talk about it.
Major Spoilers Ahead
Three Generations of Men Competing for the Future and the Women Who Watch Them
Rogelio just broke my heart because he’s from a time when official documents weren’t even a thing. People used to simply buy a plot of land and build their entire lives around it. It used to be passed down from generation to generation, with the family business being run by the brightest member of the bunch. Selling it off or giving it away to a rival with more money or power used to be a matter of disgrace. And that silent suffering is absolutely palpable in Josep Abad’s performance. Even though nobody exactly blames him for not making it official that the land he and his family live on is their own, I think he genuinely feels that he has triggered the undoing of the Solé household. The only member of the family who goes out of her way to ensure that Rogelio doesn’t break down in tears is Mariona. She always tries to comfort him, spend time with him, and shield him from the unnecessary comments from her mother and aunts.
Quimet and Roger both love their family land and are ready to do everything to keep it under their control. Since Quimet is the patriarch, there’s nobody to question or change his decisions. But everyone can see that he is in a very precarious position. He doesn’t have the money to pay the workers who’ll pluck the peaches from his trees and get them sold. He isn’t in peak physical condition to do it all on his own. On top of all that, he doesn’t want Roger, who is more than interested in handling the peach business, to take over his duties because he wants his son to focus on school and make sure that he has more options than just becoming a farmer. Since Cisco isn’t directly connected to the land, he’s the one to start bringing in the solar panels (and planting weeds in the sugarcane field). To be clear, it’s not a bad solution. It appears to be nightmarish because planting those solar panels comes at the cost of a long family history of farming peaches. Sadly, amidst all this chaos, the women become passive observers who pick up the pieces once the men are done flailing around aimlessly.
Farmer’s Protests Against Unreasonable Prices And The Takeover Of Solar Power Plants
The farmers’ protests in India educated a lot of us about the ugly politics and tactics that the government and administrations employ to buy their products at dirt cheap prices. Those same products are then sold to retail chains at unimaginable prices, and those retail chains then sell them to us at an even more unimaginable rate. And none of the profits go to these farmers, thereby robbing them of their ability to buy everything they need to keep farming. If they can’t do their work properly, they run out of money. Once they run out of money, they are forced to sell everything to stay afloat or bow down to the government and become their puppets. In reality, the Indian farmers were well-organized enough to defy the authorities and ensure that they were properly compensated at the end of the day. In “Alcarràs,” the farmers are united. But when even one farmer (Quimet) doesn’t show up, the movement loses its momentum. Going by the final moments of the film, the protests don’t work in the Solé family’s favor, and they are forced to sell their farms and allow them to be turned into solar plants.
Talking about solar plants, the reason it doesn’t sound like an abominable option is because it is environmentally friendly and it’ll eventually benefit the environment. And since sunlight is abundant in Spain, it can turn out to be helpful for everybody. Now, I don’t know if you are aware of the politics surrounding electricity distribution, but it’s way more miserable than farming. So, there’s no guarantee that this oh-so productive and eco-friendly venture is going to benefit the Solé family in any way. We see that the administration has already taken over the farming land. Who’s to say that one day they are going to arrive at their doorstep and tell them to vacate their home because it’ll be turned into a control room for the engineers? Therefore, a solar power plant sounds great on paper and possibly when it’s seen from an ecological perspective. However, when you analyze it from a humane angle, it’s so heartbreaking. As mentioned before, that piece of land isn’t just a farm. It’s a hub of memories and an opportunity for newer generations to be in tune with their family history and the environment. Giving it all to a corporation that has no such connection to that land is nothing short of criminal.
Final Thoughts on ‘Alcarràs’
Carla Simón and Arnau Vilaró don’t beat around the bush regarding the fate of the peach farm that belongs to the Solé family. From the first frame of “Alcarràs,” you are aware of the fact that things are going to end in a tragic fashion. But since the family sticks with each other through thick and thin, you get a whiff of positivity because you know that they don’t have to face this tragic shift on their own. The cinematography by Daniela Cajas, the editing by Ana Pfaff, and the music by Andrea Koch add to that feeling of solace so that the relentlessness and inevitability of capitalism don’t feel all that daunting. I won’t say that “Alcarràs” is a particularly entertaining film. Most of the time, it feels like a documentary where you are spending some time in this dysfunctional household. And by the time the credits start to roll, you just want to hug them and assure them that everything is going to be alright. In addition to all that, if it educates you about the future of farming and how you can make a change by joining farmers when they protest against oppressive laws, then that’s a win for the movie as well.