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(The 2024 Maryland Film Festival ran May 2-5 in Baltimore, Maryland, Check our Chris Reed’s movie review of Propriedade which played the fest. Seen it? Join the conversation with HtN on our Letterboxd Page.)

Countries with vast disparities between haves and have-nots breed class resentment and, often, a frayed social structure that bears ill fruit to all. Unfortunately, we appear to be approaching a new Gilded Age, where concentrations of wealth in fewer and fewer hands deprive vast amounts of people of their basic needs (not to mention happiness). In Brazilian director Daniel Bandeira’s Propriedade, he offers one twisted nightmare setting rich against poor. As the title suggest, it’s all about property and who gets to own and exploit the land.

Married couple Roberto (Tavinho Teixeira) and Teresa (Malu Galli) live primarily in the big city but have a vast country estate with a large contingent of workers who depend on them. Things have not been going so well for the farm portion, however, and so Roberto has decided to abandon its current use and bring in developers to construct a hotel. When this news is broken to his current employees, they do not respond well. In four months, they’ll not only have to leave, but also pay back debts from what has been little better than indentured servitude.

What ensues is a tense standoff between Teresa, who takes refuge in the new armored car that Roberto purchased for her, and the farm workers trying to break her out. She can’t remember Roberto’s password phrase to start the vehicle (he’s stuck in the house with some significant injuries), and so can only wait for what comes next. She’s royally screwed.

Bandeira (Amigos de Risco) does a fine job raising the existential stakes early and then doubling down on them. He also delivers enough backstory for the principal characters so their respective dilemmas have weight. Furthermore, he proves adept at creating sympathy for each side in what becomes an increasingly bloody mess. That doesn’t mean that there aren’t some clear ideological underpinnings to the narrative; rather, well-drawn human beings elicit compassion, no matter the larger context.

But the context certainly does color how the story unfolds. From the start, we sense how entitled and secure Roberto feels, even when addressing his depressed wife, who is still recovering from a recent assault. From the way he parks his car to the manner with which he addresses those below him, he expects his will to be followed.

As does the estate manager who first lets the denizens of the estate know what is about to happen. No one is more surprised than he that the workers decide to push back. But you can only mistreat people for so long before they might eschew passive compliance.

The cast is strong, lending nuance in their performances to an increasingly bizarre and violent set of circumstances. Money makes the world go around, but not if you’ve learned that you’ll never have any. Then it’s time to claim what prizes you can and make a go of it. In Propriedade, those without property show how the wages of greed can often boomerang back on the affluent. Better to share; you might live a little longer.

– Christopher Llewellyn Reed (@ChrisReedFilm)

2024 Maryland Film Festival;Daniel Bandeira; Propriedade movie review

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Christopher Llewellyn Reed is a film critic, filmmaker, and educator. A member of both the Online Film Critics Society (OFCS) and the Washington DC Area Film Critics Association (WAFCA) and a Rotten Tomatoes-approved film critic, he is: lead film critic at Hammer to Nail; editor at Film Festival Today; formerly the host of the award-winning Reel Talk with Christopher Llewellyn Reed, from Dragon Digital Media; and the author of Film Editing: Theory and Practice. In addition, he is one of the founders and former cohosts of The Fog of Truth, a podcast devoted to documentary cinema.

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