An all-female gang draws oil from an underground pipeline and sells it to working-class motorbike couriers, in this hybrid feature: part narrative documentary, part crumbling sci-fi, part classic western.
Dry Ground Burning
Joana Pimenta, Adirley Queirós
On the heels of their 2018 short Rádio Coração, directors Joana Pimenta and Adirley Queirós return to the peripheral Ceilândia area of Brasilia to create this formally austere, hybrid new feature, which walks a fine line between narrative documentary, crumbling sci-fi, and classic western.
The film centres on sisters Chitarra and Léa, leaders of an all-female gang that refines oil drawn from an underground pipeline in their makeshift facility. They sell the gasoline they make to working-class motoqueiros, motorcycle-delivery riders who depend on it to survive in their Sol Nascente favela.
A nonlinear structure presents the story as recalled by the participants in different moments. Dry Ground Burning is focused more on creating vivid characters and narrative arcs than on a chronology of events. Pimenta and Queirós anchor on the sisters’ close relationship, which resumes as soon as hot-headed Léa gets out of prison, and is explored through conversations that piece together the tapestry of epic tales from their childhood with their exploits as adults. The film offers a tense, refracted reflection of what Brazil is today, from the rough reality, in which the gang tries to get into politics, to a pivotal surreptitious shot that captures the masses of “good people” who praise the then–newly elected President Bolsonaro. The lines are clearly drawn before the upcoming battles, and the sisters’ are made with oil burning on dry ground.