The characters in Semillas de Lucha have moments of levity, resembling normal lives. They tell lessons and stories to their children, they have budding romances, and at others, there’s time to dance and have fun. But for most of the time, they’re under the thumb of Jose Garcia (Crisostomo Pena), a mestizo in charge of Afro-Indigenous banana farmers in Esmeraldas province, Ecuador. It’s particularly hurtful to listen to him use a slur against these peasants.
Kvrvf Nawel’s feature also shows one of Garcia’s fellow mestizos, Milton Buchetti (Clever Calderon), telling the farmers that Ecuadorian bananas aren’t the best in the world, which is why the farmers’ pay is decreasing. In fact, Garcia and Buchetti praise the quality of Ecuadorian bananas behind the farmer’s backs, but they have to lie to have a bigger percentage of the profits. Patriotism aside, this feature at least shows its audience the big picture.
Much of the feature is Abuela Jacinta (Martha Arboleda) telling present day children about this strike. She, after all, partly participated in it as a girl (Gina Guzman) during the 1960s. I’m assuming that this is Nawel’s debut feature and there are many moments here showing that roughness. The cinematography is inconsistent and some of the imagery doesn’t make sense. I get the bananas on the floor but why are there boots next to them?
But the feature redeems itself by showing the many ways that a strike works. It gloriously shows Jacinta’s mother Clara (Katerine Perea Rodriguez) and another woman, Tomasa (Tania Perea Rodriguez). They lead by example during the strike, their presence reminding audiences that Afro-Indigenous women are prominent in many labor movements. The strike eventually leads them to negotiate their terms. And both women, along with their male counterparts, tell the government to respect their valid demands.