The Land Beneath our Feet explores concepts related to land ownership, cultural development, history and government interference, showcasing Emmanuel Urey as he deals with the reality of living in a commonwealth in Liberia.
The feature is at once an anthropological view into the development and strife within the country but manages to feel deeply personal and emotionally investing at the same time. There is a running theme of the power history holds throughout the film, from Urey's conversations with his father to the main focus of the film; footage from a Harvard expedition depicting life in Liberia at the moment American industrialization was introduced to the country.
Conflicting cultures is also a major theme and is evidenced early on in the way that one interviewee describes the idea of Liberians collectively owning the land they live on while settlers are trying to buy land off of them. The film provides a deep look into the way that thinking has shifted and forcefully evolved in order to work within new systems.
In one notable scene Urey is discussing his dilemma with releasing the Harvard expedition footage and we catch a glimpse of his deep understanding of the power that history holds. He believes that the footage needs to be public and can contribute to the restoration of Liberian culture after years of civil war and strife but understands the divisive power of the film. Throughout, we are introduced to various Liberians who have identity conflicts, financial instability and feelings of powerlessness. Despite this, the film shows the happiness that comes out of the country and the hope of creating a better and stronger nation with history as a major tool for their rebirth. The documentary itself stands as an example of the way that documentation can lead to a better and more knowledgeable future.
The music used in the film provides a look into Liberian culture while also providing levity at key points and the intermingling of new and old footage perfectly depicts the way that present circumstance and the history of the country have an incredibly important role in resolving conflict.
The film also manages to touch on deeper issues such as women's rights and makes a point to highlight the fact that even major issues have layers and all need to be addressed.
The emphasis on community in the film is also important and reminds us that coming together to exchange information and ideas is where change happens. This makes me think of the way that DBFF has the same power to lift up voices and share various viewpoints in beautiful ways.
Overall, the film is a beautiful testimony to the power that lies within community action and organization and excels at depicting the power history holds.
See the trailer here:
The Land Beneath our Feet runs 60 minutes and will be shown Sunday, January 29 at 1:45 p.m. during Film Block 13 with shorts Priyanath and The Storyteller as part of Denton Black Film Festival. To purchase tickets at the online box office, click here.