I struggled to watch Angel Manuel Soto film La Granja (The Farm, Happiness is Hard) not because it was bad, but because it was so good. He had me at minute three. Bravo to him. The film is a scathing socio-political commentary. To me, the consequence of depraved corruption. In this make believe dystopian realm, La Granja’s brazen punch, if you have any humanity in you, is that it’s true. This story takes place in Puerto Rico. The Puerto Rico few want to look at, like Angel says, “It’s not the Puerto Rico you see on postcards.” But it must be looked at. We learn by contrasting the good and the bad, the dark and the light and so on...
Why do we compare the most decadent and repulsive behavior of people to animals? I mean, most animals kill in self-defense or when they’re hungry, not for show. We, the people, also kill in self-defense or if we're hungry, but we also kill for show. Right? And so we’re in a category all of our own as I see it. What is animalistic about us? I’m imagining the side of human behavior that dismembers people without remorse or dismembers people with gusto as if the kill would save their lives. Another way to kill for show is to asphyxiate slowly with passive despotism, torture, oppression, enslavement, austerity, rape, robbery, pillage. These things set the landscape for either ignorance or violence, which turns the knob a little higher each time until it gets to such a point that it turns human reality into a menace. Somehow Angel gets at all this in La Granja without apology.
Angel is warning us but also urging us to take a step back to reconsider all our options, to dialogue with one another because we might just end up there. It looks like we're almost there by the look of things on a global scale. Corrupt and base souls strangling the people left and right, north and south, and east and west. They themselves seemed captured in a twisted sinister mindset that aims to make ignorance and vitriol the only way out, towards their way. The question is, which way is that?
That is what La Granja captures and presents - desperation, decay, oppression, indifference, and death. His poetry of understanding how colonialism plus massive white collar corruption entangled with the American Dream has dismembered a nation that is still alive both on the island and in the diaspora, ese pueblo grande Puertorriquño fuera de la isla.
La Granja doesn't make it easy or pretty on you. It's brave I'd say. But if there’s life, shouldn’t there also be hope? Go for compassion. Free Puerto Rico.