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Film Review: Terra Mater – Mother Land
by Marinell Haegelin

Kantarama Gahigiri, Rwanda, Switzerland 2023

In its simplicity TERRA MATER is so stark and powerful, yet so disappointingly sad the earth sighs a windborne song bemoaning humankind’s balefulness. Director-writer Kantarama Gahigiri chose a fitting setting for this probing drama—a huge landfill in her native East Africa. As far as the eye can see is mound after mound of waste, and instead of hearing the buzz of bumble bees the air is permeated with the sound of protesting voices and chants. Vultures dot the skyline. Persons perch on the mounds, watchful. Workers wait, garbed in orange. In no uncertain terms the unspoken question is: Is this not enough?

As Mother Land makes her way to the top, it’s “respect” and “land first” that we hear throb breathlessly, angrily from her with a buzzard soaring above. Look at what you have done, and what you are doing to our land. We know the answer is a non sequitur; the Republic of Congo has the mighty mineral cobalt, "blood diamond of batteries.” Minerals, Mother Land, they’re always after minerals.

(The rape of the African continent has run for centuries, through colonialism by imperialistic European countries, and China’s interest increased in the 20th century. One region after another endured desecration of its heritage and ransacking of its lands. Whites tried to rule, and when that didn’t work the alternative was the despoliation of natural resources. As African countries gained independence in the 1960s, neocolonialism was coined to explain the (Western) gain without the cost.)

Neocolonialism is what Mother Land laments, perched confidently atop the technological detritus and waste, that’s a miasma of filth, plastic, rubber, and vapor. Production values are good, particularly Jules Claude Gisler’s editing, Kathleen Moser’s sound design and Daniel Bleuer’s cinematography. Gahigiri’s film resonates as a statement against neocolonialism hitting the nail squarely on the head.